There has never been a greater need for strong families and homes.
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What some do not realize is that every human has two bodies.
1. A Spirit body which is a child of God that lived before this life that had been taught, prepared, given freedoms to choose, and has chosen to enter a physical body of a child upon conception.
2. A physical body of flesh and bones generated with DNA as offspring of our earthly mother and father upon conception in which the spirit body enters the physical body to dwell.
WE ARE NOT HUMAN BEINGS
HAVING SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES. WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS,
HAVING HUMAN EXPERIENCES!
FOLLOW GOD’S ‘PLANNED PARENTHOOD’!
This spirit body gives the physical body life! Think of the body as a glove. It just lays there as it does at death. But, once the spirit enters it, there is motion and movement.
When our mortal body dies at death, the spirit body leaves the physical body and goes to Paradise where he/she continues living and learning until the Resurrection; when the spirt and the physical bodies reunite together again only to become glorified beings and as one; never to be separated again.
To interrupt a child’s life before birth not only kills the flesh but denies the freedom and choice he or she as a spirit made anciently before they came to this world! It also disrupts “God’s work and glory in bringing to pass the Immortality and Eternal Life of man.” (Moses 1:39) It is of eternal consequence as everything and everyone was created spiritually before it was created physically! (Moses 3:5)
This is why physical intimacy with chastity and sexual purity between a husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is among the ‘Shalt Not’s’ of Ten Commandments. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.
In the world today, Satan has led many people to believe that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is acceptable. But in God’s sight, it is a serious sin. It is an abuse of the power He has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:3-5).
Sometimes people try to convince themselves that sexual relations outside of marriage are acceptable if the participants love one another. This is not true. Breaking the law of chastity and encouraging someone else to do so is not an expression of love. People who love each other will never endanger one another’s happiness and safety in exchange for temporary personal pleasure.
When people care for one another enough to keep the law of chastity, their love, trust, and commitment increase, resulting in greater happiness and unity. In contrast, relationships built on sexual immorality sour quickly. Those who engage in sexual immorality often feel fear, guilt, and shame. Bitterness, jealousy, and hatred soon replace any positive feelings that once existed in their relationship.
(pornography. pre-marital sex, fornication, adultery, etc.)
INTERRUPTS GOD’S ‘PLAN OF LIFE’ FOR EACH OF US, HIS CHILDREN!
(It’s why GOD called it SIN.)
Some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.
When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption.
Marriage – An Institution For Bringing Up Children
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve
pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.
We declare that God’s commandment for His children
to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
This ONLY happens between a MAN and a WOMAN who should be legally and lawfully married.
All Things Were First Created Spiritually – INCLUDING YOU AND ME!
We each were predetermined a man or a woman, before we came here.
God created all things spirituallybefore they were naturally upon the face of the earth. He created man, the first flesh, upon the earth—Woman is a help meet for man.Moses 3:2
To be created “spiritually” appears to have at least two meanings: to be planned in advance, and to be formed as a living being with individual identity and a spirit body.
“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.”Moses 3:5–7;
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.”Abraham 3:22–23
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal—First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—D&C 29:31–32See also Moses 3:19; 6:51).
Children Are Becoming Less Valued
There is a “shift in attitude” about the purpose of marriage. More and more young people view marriage ‘as a couples relationship, designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults, rather than an institution for bringing up children.’
Sadly, the family continues to be assaulted relentlessly throughout the world. You only need to read a newspaper, internet, or turn on the television to see how openly and viciously the war against the family is being waged. Gender is being confused, and gender roles are being repudiated. Same-gender marriage is being promoted in direct opposition to one of God’s primary purposes for His children to experience mortality.
Another disturbing challenge to the family, is that children are becoming less valued. In many parts of the world, people are having fewer children. Abortion is probably the clearest sign that couples do not want children. An estimated one-quarter of all pregnancies worldwide end by induced abortion.
A Devastating Practice
Abortion is a two-edged sword. Not only does it encourage selfishness and the promiscuous use of the powers of procreation, this widespread practice often makes adoption more difficult for married couples who are unable to bear children of their own.
While recognizing certain “rare cases in which abortion may be justified,” they emphasized that “these are not automatic reasons for abortion” and “counseled people everywhere to turn from the devastating practice of abortion for personal or social convenience.
Bringing children into the world is certainly not convenient. Most often it involves physical pain followed by great sacrifice and selflessness. But the blessings of keeping God’s command to rear children are some of the sweetest blessings He offers. Indeed, in many ways parenthood gives us a foretaste of godhood.
The family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity. We lived as Heavenly Father’s spirit sons and daughters before this mortal existence. In that grand premortal family council, our Heavenly Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and peace of His children was presented. We understood that we would come to this earth to live as families, and through the sealing authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood we could live throughout the rest of eternity as families.
It is alarming to see how intensely and openly the family is under attack in contemporary society. The proclamation is very clear:
We declare that God’s commandment for His children to
multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare
that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation
are to be employed only between man and woman,
lawfully wedded as husband and wife. . . .
. . . Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony,
and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows
with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. [“The Family,” 102]
As important as the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is, the Lord has made clear that we must demonstrate our obedience only within the marriage relationship. There are numerous reasons for this restriction, but two of the most significant are to discourage sexual promiscuity and to provide a stable and healthy family environment for children.
In most societies, bearing children out of wedlock has traditionally been considered an embarrassment and a disgrace. But in today’s world, where good is called evil and evil good (see Isa. 5:20), the stigma of nonmarital childbearing has largely vanished. Not only is this practice a sin in the eyes of heaven, but researchers have found out-of-wedlock birth to be associated with several risks for the baby. For instance, compared with children born to married couples, children born out of wedlock are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, suffer death due to injury, or eventually become juvenile offenders.
Children born to unwed parents and placed for adoption fare significantly better than those who are not adopted. They experience fewer learning problems, achieve higher vocational levels, and are less likely to receive government assistance as adults.It is obvious that bringing children into the world and raising them the Lord’s way results in spiritual and temporal blessings.
Replenishing the Earth
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:26-27
After the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply,” He commanded them to “replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The Hebrew word translated as replenish means “to fill.” For many years we have heard warnings about overpopulation and the devastating effects it can cause. While some areas of the world are experiencing a negative impact from extreme population density, the world as a whole is actually moving in the opposite direction. Indeed, research indicates that by the year 2040 world population will peak and begin to decline.
Probably a more relevant issue than population density is how we use the resources God has given us to support the population now and in the future. “For the earth is full,” He said, “and there is enough and to spare. … If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17–18).
“The enemy of human happiness as well as the cause of
poverty and starvation is not the birth of children.
It is the failure of people to do with the earth
what God could teach them to do
if only they would ask and then obey.” Henry B. Eyring
We must stand firm at this time when the adversary is using differing lifestyles in an attempt to replace the marriage of one man to one woman. It would be well for all people of the world to read the full text of the proclamation.
The attacks on the family also undermine the value of life—particularly the life of the unborn. Life is being trivialized and subjected to the vacillating whims of convenience and political correctness. Indeed, some estimate that induced abortions end one-fourth of all pregnancies.
Far too many people view marriage as a “couples relationship,” designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults rather than an institution for rearing children. Children are considered a choice rather than a blessing. About 1 million children per year experience parental divorce and its aftermath, and about one-third of all children in America are born out of wedlock. Almost every trend indicates that we are on a slippery slope downward from God’s plan for His children. The family, once universally hailed as the cornerstone of society, is losing its essential role.
When you stop and think about it, from a diabolically tactical point of view, fighting the family makes sense. When Satan wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical and not doable. That’s all it takes, because Satan knows that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord’s work is to diminish the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home.
Look at what he accomplishes when he does that. Couples unhappy in their marriages tend not to give appropriate gospel instruction in the home, both through formal family home evening lessons and through exemplary living. They are less likely to be committed to gospel principles in their own lives. And the Internet, when not properly used, is a vicious influence in the home. So we know, without question, Lucifer is the enemy of the family!
Our youth need steadfast, courageous mothers—
and they need true, faithful and righteous fathers.
Full and Equal Partnerships
Men and women joined together in marriage need to work together as a full partnership. However, a full and equal partnership between men and women does not imply the roles played by the two sexes are the same in God’s grand design for His children. As clearly stated in the proclamation on the family, men and women, though spiritually equal, are entrusted with different but equally significant roles. These roles complement each other.
Family stewardships thus must be understood in terms of obligations and responsibilities—of love, service, and interdependence. Men who attempt to dominate their wives, who seek to exercise unrighteous dominion without regard to spousal counsel and sensitivities, simply don’t understand that such actions are contrary to God’s will.
“Some men who are evidently unable to gain respect by the goodness of their lives, use as justification for their actions the statement that Eve was told that Adam should rule over her. How much sadness, how much tragedy, how much heartbreak has been caused through centuries of time by weak men who have used that as a scriptural warrant for atrocious behavior! They do not recognize that the same account indicates that Eve was given as a helpmeet to Adam. The facts are that they stood side by side in the garden. They were expelled from the garden together, and they worked together, side by side. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Solemn Responsibilities,” Ensign, November 1991, 51]
It is within the family that divine potential is best realized for both men and women. The blessings and responsibilities of parenthood permit mothers and fathers to act, albeit imperfectly, in a new physical and spiritual relationship that draws them within God’s purposes for their lives.
The proclamation states: “Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” (“The Family,” 102). They teach their families the gospel and lead in kindness. They pray for and with family members, collectively and individually. They set an example of respect and love for their eternal companion and the mother of their children. In all things they follow the example of the Savior and strive to be worthy of His name and His blessing. Fathers should seek constantly for guidance from the Holy Ghost so they will know what to do, what to say, and also know what not to do and what not to say. They serve the family and the Church in the spirit of love and enthusiasm, by example preparing family members to serve others.
Part of the father’s role in presiding in the home involves learning about each individual’s needs and aspirations. Fathers are expected by God and His prophets not only to provide for their families but also to protect them. Dangers of all sorts abound in the world in which we live. Physical protection against natural or man-made hazards is important.
Moral dangers are also all around us, confronting our children from their early years. Fathers play a vital role in protecting children against such snares. It is sad to note that children in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of high school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, to be physically or sexually abused as children, and to be in trouble with the law than are those from families with both biological parents present.
We know that a father’s role does not end with presiding, providing, and protecting family members. On a day-to-day basis, fathers can and should help with the essential nurturing and bonding associated with feeding, playing, storytelling, loving, and all the rest of the activities that make up family life. And grandfathers continue their shepherding role as long as they live.
The proclamation teaches that “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (“The Family,” 102). Nurturing refers to parenting behaviors such as warmth, support, bonding, attachment, recognizing each child’s unique needs and abilities, and attending to children’s needs. Nurturing in and of itself is more important in the development of a child than is any particular method or technique of child rearing. It hardly needs saying that nurturing is best carried out in a stable, safe family context. Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.
A mother’s nurturing love arouses in children, from their earliest days on earth, an awakening of the memories of love and goodness they experienced in their premortal existence. Because our mothers love us, we learn, or, more accurately, remember, that God also loves us. One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.
Today there is significant pressure in our materialistic world to have and to spend more money. Unfortunately this draws married mothers to work outside the home to provide a second family income. As husbands, wives, and children recognize the difference between basic necessities and material wants—as manifest in the choice of house, household furnishings, car, entertainment, travel, etc.—they lessen family financial burdens and contribute to helping mothers be at home. Decisions about working outside the home are difficult ones and need to be made prayerfully, keeping ever in mind the counsel of the living prophets on this complex issue. It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee. I know how some of you struggle with decisions concerning this matter. I repeat, do the very best you can. You know your circumstances, and I know that you are deeply concerned for the welfare of your children. Gordon B. Hinckley
President Hinckley’s counsel raises significant questions about time pressures on mothers. Taking care of small, dependent, and demanding children is never-ending and often nerve-wracking. Mothers must not fall into the trap of believing that “quality” time can replace “quantity” time. Quality is a direct function of quantity—and mothers, to nurture their children properly, must provide both. To do so requires constant vigilance and a constant juggling of competing demands. It is hard work, no doubt about it.
Sometimes you mothers may feel like the fathers do not appreciate you and the important contribution you make to your families and to the work of the Lord. Never doubt, mothers, that you are the heart of the home. Your attitude—whether happy, sad, positive, or negative—will likely be reflected in the feelings of your husband and your children.
Women today are being encouraged by some to have it all—generally, all simultaneously: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world. . . .
Doing things sequentially—filling roles one at a time at different times—is not always possible, as we know, but it gives a woman the opportunity to do each thing well in its time and to fill a variety of roles in her life. A woman . . . may fit more than one career into the various seasons of life. She need not try to sing all the verses of her song at the same time. James E. Faust
And grandmothers continue their nurturing role as long as they live.
Principles for Marriage and Families
Let me quote again from the proclamation: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (“The Family,” 102). Parents should work to create loving, eternal connections with their children. Reproof or correction will, to be sure, sometimes be required. But it must be done sensitively, persuasively, with “an increase of love” thereafter, “lest [the child] esteem [the parent] to be his enemy” (D&C 121:43).
It can be equally destructive when parents are too permissive and overindulge their children, allowing them to do as they please. Parents need to set limits in accordance with the importance of the matter involved and the child’s disposition and maturity. Don’t make mountains out of molehills, and don’t produce what to a child seems an interminably long list of rules. Help children understand the reasons for rules, and always follow through with appropriate discipline when rules are broken. It is important as well to praise appropriate behavior. It will challenge all of your creativity and patience to maintain this balance, but the rewards will be great. Children who understand their boundaries through the consistent application of important rules are more likely to do well at school, to be more self-controlled, and to be more willing to abide by the laws of the land.
Parents need to be consistent and loving, taking into account each child’s unique nature and disposition; setting appropriate limits to acceptable behavior, including modest dress, clean language, and dignified appearance; and then allowing each child his or her needed autonomy. Children are better prepared for the inevitable day when they leave home if parents “teach them correct principles and they [learn to] govern themselves”.
Helping children learn how to make decisions requires that parents give them a measure of autonomy, dependent on the age and maturity of the child and the situation at hand. Parents need to give children choices and should be prepared to appropriately adjust some rules, thus preparing children for real-world situations. To do this, parents must listen—really listen—to what their children are saying. They must know what is important to each child. I learned this lesson years ago from one of our daughters. She was only four or five at the time. She came into the room all excited. I was reading the newspaper, and she had something very much on her mind that was important to her. I was responding, “Yes. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” All of a sudden the newspaper came crashing down under her two little hands. She grabbed my face between her hands so that she could look me right in the eye. This was a little four- or five-year-old teaching her father a great lesson: “Daddy, you’re not listening to me.” And she was right.
Parents, let’s listen and know what is important in the lives of our children. If we fail to listen, if we don’t try to understand their point of view, how can we expect them to come to us for guidance in making important decisions?
One of the best tools we have at our disposal as parents is the family council. I cannot emphasize enough its importance in helping to understand and address challenges in the family. When members of one family began to feel unusual contention invading their home, they called a family council to discuss the situation. The father and then the mother explained to their children what they had observed and asked how each felt about it. The mother and father learned that since their two oldest children had left home—one to be married and one to go to college—an unfair burden of responsibility had been unwittingly shifted to the two oldest children remaining at home, and they were becoming resentful. By counseling together and listening to what their children were feeling, a more equitable distribution of responsibility was made among the children, resolving much of the frustration and tension in the home.
I recognize that there are as many kinds of family councils as there are different kinds of families. Family councils can consist of one parent and one child, of two parents and several children, of just two parents, or of just siblings, etc. Regardless of the size or makeup of the family council, what really matters are loving motivation, an atmosphere that encourages free and open discussion, and a willingness to listen to the honest input of all council members—as well as to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.
Family councils can be a blessing in the lives of families and individual family members in this life and through the eternities. Through them we can draw closer to our families and closer to God. They provide a unique opportunity for fathers and mothers to extend their loving influence in important ways.
As our families counsel together with the understanding that we are the family of God, we come to know that He loves us. We are precious to Him. He cares. He wants to help us. He wants to give us the support and help that we need in times of crisis. Much of that support and strength comes through counseling with one another.
We need to remember that our families are imperfect because they are made up of imperfect people. Still, there are things we can do to improve our families and each individual who lives within them as we move forward together toward fulfilling the Creator’s eternal plan for us. In all that we do, we must always remember that the voice of the Spirit is an essential component—and it is a still, small voice. God’s most significant messages come quietly, softly, sweetly. You cannot teach nor cradle nor weld together a celestial, eternal family if there is contention in the home.
If any of you are struggling with contention in your homes, you can change this. Talk to your family. Ask for their help. Tell them you don’t want a contentious spirit in the home anymore and discuss what each family member can do to prevent it.
Let the spirit in the home reflect the attitude of the still, small voice. It is this spirit that will imbue us with sufficient spiritual strength to feel confident and patient in our family relationships.
If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world,
we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds
with and call them back to the things of the Spirit.
I know of no better way to do this than by daily reading the scriptures.
We have spoken together today about fundamental, guiding principles for our homes and families—about full and equal partnerships, roles of fathers and mothers, principles for marriage and families, and family councils. Remember, also, there is great power in prayer. I strongly encourage personal and family prayer—which are important in building strong families—but I want to emphasize something else as well. I’m wondering if many of you parents—you couples—have lost that essential moment of kneeling together at the end of the day, just the two of you, holding hands and saying your prayers. If that has slipped away from your daily routine, may I suggest you put it back—beginning tonight!
This is a great time to thank the Lord for your companion and for your children and for one more day together. I do not believe Lucifer can penetrate a marriage, or cause discord and misunderstanding within a marriage and the family, when parents take time to pray together. Don’t try to work through the daily challenges of life without kneeling together and calling down the blessings of heaven into your marriage and your family, letting Heavenly Father help you get from where you are to where you would like to be.
This article is primarily focused on the sacred roles of fathers and mothers. Please do not think I am unmindful or uncaring about the many married persons who have been denied the blessings of parenthood through no fault of their own. I am also well aware of the heart-wrenching sorrow of so many who walk the paths of life alone without a faithful companion at their side. We have been promised that no meaningful blessing related to marriage and family will be denied you in the eternities if you will be strong, be loving, and stay faithful. Pray always. He will hear and answer your prayers “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). And never underestimate the influence for good you can be in the life of a sister, a niece, a brother, or a nephew.
In conclusion, please get a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”Read it and strive to align your marriage and your family to its inspired, revealed direction from the Lord. Then, be the very best and act the very best you can. God will give you strength beyond your own as you strive daily to fulfill the most sacred mortal responsibility He gives to His children. Listen to the voice of the Spirit and the counsel of the living prophets. Be of good cheer. God did not place you on earth to fail, and your efforts as parents will not be counted as failure unless you give up.
May our Heavenly Father bless each and every one of you. May the peace of the Lord abide in your own hearts and overflow into your homes and families. I leave you my testimony that God lives. We are His children. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. They love us and want us to be faithful and happy. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—
to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Moses 1:39 For The Family
Many of these words and thoughts expressed come from
Latter-day Prophets, Apostles and educators on the family.
A family begins when a young man and woman are drawn to one another by an irresistible force of nature. They offer to one another that which distinguishes him as male and her as female, and they want, above all else, to find the one with whom they can completely express their love. They want to have children—to be a family.
These compelling forces of nature should not be resisted, only approached cautiously, protecting those life-generating powers until promises have been made to one another, covenants with the Lord, and a legal ceremony performed, witnessed, and recorded.
Then, and only then, as husband and wife, man and woman, may they join together in that expression of love through which life is created.
We, like Jacob, must teach “according to the strict commands of God,” “notwithstanding the greatness of the task.” Like Jacob, we also run the risk of enlarging “the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds.”7
When we speak plainly of divorce, abuse, gender identity, contraception, abortion, parental neglect, we are thought by some to be way out of touch or to be uncaring. Some ask if we know how many we hurt when we speak plainly. Do we know of marriages in trouble, of the many who remain single, of single-parent families, of couples unable to have children, of parents with wayward children, or of those confused about gender? Do we know? Do we care?
Those who ask have no idea how much we care; you know little of the sleepless nights, of the endless hours of work, of prayer, of study, of travel—all for the happiness and redemption of mankind.
Because we do know and because we do care, we must teach the rules of happiness without dilution, apology, or avoidance. That is our calling.
Men on earth have the opportunity to become fathers and experience
some of the same joys that our Heavenly Father feels for us.
Fatherhood is a divine responsibility to be cherished. (3:59)
As we take a long, hard look at the world today, it is becoming increasingly evident that Satan is working overtime to enslave the souls of men. His main target is the fundamental unit of society—the family.
During the past few decades, Satan has waged a vigorous campaign to belittle and demean this basic and most important of all organizations. His success is becoming increasingly evident—the grim facts are seen, reported, and heard about daily and involve the collapse of many family units. With the decay of the family, we see the terrible effects on our society—increased crime, behavior disorders, poverty, drug abuse, and the list continues to grow and grow.
It appears to me that the crosshairs of Satan’s scope are centered on husbands and fathers. Today’s media, for example, have been relentless in their attacks—ridiculing and demeaning husbands and fathers in their God-given roles.
Remember, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. The man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.”10Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity.11Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.
May we heed the voice of the prophets, who,
from the beginning of time, have warned us about
the importance of fathers in the home.
His house key is in the lock. He’s home from work and about to step inside. In the kitchen, real life is scattered all around. The baby is crying. The three-year-old just poured milk—not in a glass but all over the counter. The seven-year-old needs some daddy attention. And dinner isn’t ready.
With a deadline at work tomorrow, a head buzzing from rush-hour traffic, and a Church meeting tonight, he’s hoping she will greet him with some relief.
Hearing him come in, she is glad a relief party has arrived! But when she sees his face fall as he looks around, she defends herself: “Look—I work all day too. I’ve been with these kids nonstop, and I really need a break. Will you please fix this macaroni and cheese and help with the kids?”
In the heat of her request, his hope evaporates into exasperation, and he is about to react.
At this crossroads of their busy day, these two have some choices.
Will they use this moment to practice being the kind of companion each has covenanted to become? Or will each one default to past conditioning—familial and cultural? Certain attitudes and ideas have crept into the very air they breathe, challenging them as they try to work with each other rather than against each other.
Suppose he grew up with a father who was a dominant husband and a mother who was a subordinate wife. The cheery husband calls out, “Honey, I’m home!” as he strides through the polished front door. The calm wife—not a hair out of place and wearing fresh lipstick and a starched apron—greets him with, “Your dinner is ready, dear. Take off your tie and sit down.” Everything is in its place.
Suppose his parents believe that a wife’s first duty, as one U.S. church wrote recently in its creed, is to “submit graciously to her husband.” And suppose they believe that a husband’s duty is to give directions—leading out, assigning tasks, and expecting results.
Now suppose she grew up with parents who aligned themselves with women’s liberation. Her mother is grateful to live in a day when women no longer feel pressured to conform to a rigid, self-sacrificing role that seems to deny their sense of self.
Perhaps her mother, even her father, would say that a smart wife keeps boundaries around how much of her time and self she will give to support her husband and children because she first needs to look out for herself and her personal priorities in this new age of female freedom.
Correcting these two extremist attitudes, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” teaches a husband-wife concept that clearly differs from bothhouseholds where this hypothetical couple grew up. It states that fathers “are to preside” and “to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families,” while mothers “are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Fathers and mothers are to “help one another” fulfill these duties as “equal partners.”1
Our young husband’s parents believe the old idea that women are fullydependent on their husbands. Our young wife’s parents believe the new idea that women are independent of their husbands. But the restored gospel teaches the eternal idea that husbands and wives areinterdependent with each other. They are equal. They are partners.
The incorrect idea in Christian history that wives should be dependentbegan with the false premise that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a tragic mistake and that Eve was the primary culprit. Thus women’s traditional submission to men was considered a fair punishment for Eve’s sin.2
Thankfully, the Restoration clarifies Eve’s—and Adam’s—choice as essential to the eternal progression of God’s children. We honor rather than condemn what they did, and we see Adam and Eve as equal partners.
The modern liberationist idea that married people are independent of each other is also incorrect. It typically claims that there are no innate differences between men and women or that, even if some differences do exist, no one has the right to define gender-based roles.
In some ways, the excessive selflessness of the dependent wife allowed and perhaps even encouraged male domination. In reaction to this, the radical wing of the women’s liberation movement swung to the other extreme of independence, moving past the possibilities ofinterdependence. This cultural motion, and emotion, pushed some women from being overly selfless to being overly selfish—causing them to miss the personal growth that can come only from self-chosen sacrifice, which makes possible a woman’s ability to thrive from nurturing all within her circle (see John 17:19).
The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate. And the Hebrew for help in “help meet” is ezer, a term meaning that Eve drew on heavenly powers when she supplied their marriage with the spiritual instincts uniquely available to women as a gender gift.3
As President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said, men and women are by nature different, and while they share many basic human traits, the “virtues and attributes upon which perfection and exaltation depend come [more] naturally to a woman.”4
Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to “rule over” Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. A ruler can be a measuring tool that sets standards. Then Adam would live so that others may measure the rightness of their conduct by watching his. Being a ruler is not so much a privilege of power as an obligation to practice what a man preaches. Also, over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with,not ruling over. If a man does exercise “dominion … in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 121:37; emphasis added), God terminates that man’s authority.
Perhaps because false teachings had twisted original scriptural meanings, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) preferred “preside” rather than “rule.” He said: “No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding [whether he is obeying Christ], she should always be sure she is fair.”5 In this way, President Kimball saw marriage “as a full partnership,” stating, “We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners” but rather “a contributing and full partner.”6
Spouses need not perform the same functions to be equal. The woman’s innate spiritual instincts are like a moral magnet, pointing toward spiritual north—except when that magnet’s particles are scrambled out of order. The man’s presiding gift is the priesthood—except when he is not living the principles of righteousness. If the husband and the wife are wise, their counseling will be reciprocal: he will listen to the promptings of her inner spiritual compass just as she will listen to his righteous counsel.
And in an equal-partner marriage both also bring a spiritual maturity to their partnership, without regard to gender. Both have a conscience and the Holy Ghost to guide them. Both see family life as their most important work. Each also strives to become a fully rounded disciple of Jesus Christ—a complete spiritual being.
The covenant of eternal marriage is necessary for exaltation.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that for too long in the Church, the men have been the theologians while the women have been the Christians.7 To be equal partners, each should be both a theologian and a Christian.
When Elder Maxwell learned in 1996 that he had leukemia, the diagnosis was discouraging. He had worked for years on making himself “willing to submit” (Mosiah 3:19) to the Lord’s will. If it was time to face death, he didn’t want to shrink from drinking his bitter cup.
But his wife, Colleen, thought he was too willing to yield. With loving directness, she said that Christ Himself earnestly pleaded first, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Only then did He submit Himself, saying, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Elder Maxwell saw his wife’s doctrinal insight and agreed. As a result, they pleaded together that his life might be spared. Motivated by their determination, Elder Maxwell’s doctor found a new medical treatment that prolonged his life for several years. Elder Maxwell was grateful that he was not the only theologian in their marriage.8
In an equal-partner marriage, “love is not possession but participation … part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”9 With true participation, husband and wife merge into the synergistic oneness of an “everlasting dominion” that “without compulsory means” will flow with spiritual life to them and their posterity “forever and ever” (D&C 121:46).
In the little kingdom of a family, each spouse freely gives something the other does not have and without which neither can be complete and return to God’s presence. Spouses are not a soloist with an accompanist, nor are they two solos. They are the interdependent parts of a duet, singing together in harmony at a level where no solo can go.
Each gives abundance to the other’s want. As Paul wrote,
“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
“But by an equality, that … your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13–14).
Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing together—by practice.
That couple we saw at the kitchen threshold share a commitment to the promise of eternal family unity. But equal partnerships are not made in heaven—they are made on earth, one choice at a time, one conversation at a time, one threshold crossing at a time. And getting there is hard work—like patiently working through differing assumptions about who was bringing relief to whom that night or any of thousands of nights like it.
As milk drips from the counter, she holds a box of macaroni and cheese in her hand, he faces a deadline and a meeting, and both feel the pull of weariness on their faces. How would people in a covenant, balanced relationship handle such a moment, and how could the next few moments help create an equal partnership?
Young wife, do you see in him someone who has worked all day to bring sustenance to your table? Young husband, do you see in her someone who has worked all day to make nourishment of that sustenance? Can you both see beyond the doing of the day and remember the inestimable worth of the being to whom you are married?
Thresholds of Love
After a lifetime of practice and patience together, what will your last earthly threshold look like? Will it look and feel something like that of John and Therissa Clark? In 1921 John Haslem Clark of Manti, Utah, wrote what became his last journal entry:
“The folks have been here today, but have gone to their homes. The clatter of racing feet, the laughter and babble of tongues have ceased. We are alone, We two. We two whom destiny has made one. Long ago, it has been sixty years since we met under the June trees. I kissed you first. How shy and afraid was your girlhood. Not any woman on earth or in heaven could be to me what you are. I would rather you were here, woman, with your gray hair, than any fresh blossom of youth. Where you are is home. Where you are not is homesickness. As I look at you I realize that there is something greater than love, although love is the greatest thing in earth. It is loyalty. For were I driven away in shame you would follow. If I were burning in fever your cool hand would soothe me. With your hand in mine may I pass and take my place among the saved of Heaven. Being eight years the eldest—and as the years went by and I felt that the time of parting might be near—it was often the drift of our thought and speech: how could either of us be left alone. Alone, after living together for 56 years. I scarcely dared think of it and though a bit selfish comforted myself thinking [that] according to our age I would not be the one left alone.”
Another handwriting then appears later on the same page. It is Therissa’s voice, gently closing John’s journal:
“Almost two years and a half since the last writing, and its following events are so sad, so heartbreaking for this, his life’s companion that this pen has been laid down many times ere this record is made. Loss and loneliness [are] ever present and will be with me to the end. … Will time soften this sadness, will I be able to leave the Old Home and not feel that he is waiting for me, calling me? I am only content at home where I feel that he is watching over me, his presence always with me.
“On March 11, 1923, John Haslem Clark passed away after an illness of only one week. He seemed so like himself, talking and active. We had no thought that the end was near until he passed into unconsciousness a few hours before his death. Oh, may we all be as clean and pure, ready to go before our Maker.”10
We do not know the details of John and Therissa’s life as they crossed over the thresholds of their days. But we do know how 56 years of daily conversations finally shaped the kind of people they became, the kind of love they knew.
If our young couple could only know that this love is what they could feel and understand at the end of their lives, what wouldn’t they give! They’d listen more and choose better, over and over, day after day, crossing after crossing. They would learn, by patient experience, that “work is love made visible.”11 They would realize as the years pass that their marriage is helping them become better disciples of Jesus Christ, even becoming a little more like Him. Then they would understand as they cross the final threshold of mortality that the extent to which they have become one with Him is the extent to which they are one with each other.
I testify of the great blessing of children and of the happiness they will bring us in this life and in the eternities.
As we look into the eyes of a child, we see a fellow son or daughter of God who stood with us in the pre-mortal life.
It is a crowning privilege of a husband and wife who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for these spirit children of God. We believe in families, and we believe in children.
When a child is born to a husband and wife, they are fulfilling part of our Heavenly Father’s plan to bring children to earth. The Lord said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”1 Before immortality, there must be mortality.
The family is ordained of God. Families are central to our Heavenly Father’s plan here on earth and through the eternities. After Adam and Eve were joined in marriage, the scripture reads, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”2 In our day prophets and apostles have declared, “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”3
This commandment has not been forgotten or set aside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.4 We express deep gratitude for the enormous faith shown by husbands and wives (especially our wives) in their willingness to have children. When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.
Years ago, Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy shared this story with me: “The birth of our sixth child was an unforgettable experience. As I gazed on this beautiful, new daughter in the nursery just moments after her birth, I distinctly heard a voice declare, ‘There will yet be another, and it will be a boy.’ Unwisely, I rushed back to the bedside of my absolutely exhausted wife and told her the good news. It was very bad timing on my part.”5 Year after year the Masons anticipated the arrival of their seventh child. Three, four, five, six, seven years passed. Finally, after eight years, their seventh child was born—a little boy.
Last April, President Thomas S. Monson declared:
“Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider. …
“The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.”6
Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family. My daughters recently referred me to a blog written by a Christian mother (not of our faith) with five children. She commented: “[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. … Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds: “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”7
Having young children is not easy. Many days are just difficult. A young mother got on a bus with seven children. The bus driver asked, “Are these all yours, lady? Or is it a picnic?”
“They’re all mine,” she replied. “And it’s no picnic!”8
As the world increasingly asks, “Are these all yours?” we thank you for creating within the Church a sanctuary for families, where we honor and help mothers with children.
To a righteous father, there are no words sufficient to express the gratitude and love he feels for his wife’s incalculable gift of bearing and caring for their children.
Elder Mason had another experience just weeks after his marriage that helped him prioritize his family responsibilities. He said:
“Marie and I had rationalized that to get me through medical school it would be necessary for her to remain in the workplace. Although this was not what we [wanted] to do, children would have to come later. “I explained that I wanted to become a doctor. There was no alternative but to postpone having our family. Elder Kimball listened patiently and then responded in a soft voice, ‘Brother Mason, would the Lord want you to break one of his important commandments in order for you to become a doctor? With the help of the Lord, you can have your family and still become a doctor. Where is your faith?’”
Elder Mason continued: “Our first child was born less than a year later. Marie and I worked hard, and the Lord opened the windows of heaven.” The Masons were blessed with two more children before he graduated from medical school four years later.9
Across the world, this is a time of economic instability and financial uncertainty. In April general conference, President Thomas S. Monson said: “If you are concerned about providing financially for a wife and family, may I assure you that there is no shame in a couple having to scrimp and save. It is generally during these challenging times that you will grow closer together as you learn to sacrifice and to make difficult decisions.”10
Elder Kimball’s piercing question, “Where is your faith?” turns us to the holy scriptures.
It was not in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve bore their first child. Leaving the garden, “Adam [and Eve] began to till the earth. … Adam knew his wife, and she [bore] … sons and daughters, and [acting in faith] they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.”11
It was not in their Jerusalem home, with gold, silver, and precious things, that Lehi and Sariah, acting in faith, bore their sons Jacob and Joseph. It was in the wilderness. Lehi spoke of his son Jacob as “my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.”12 Lehi said of Joseph, “Thou wast born in the wilderness of [our] afflictions; yea, in the days of [our] greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.”13
In the book of Exodus, a man and woman married and, acting in faith, had a baby boy. There was no welcoming sign on the front door to announce his birth. They hid him because Pharaoh had instructed that every newborn male Israelite should be “cast into the river.”14 You know the rest of the story: the baby lovingly laid in a little ark made of bulrushes, placed in the river, watched over by his sister, found by Pharaoh’s daughter, and cared for by his own mother as his nurse. The boy was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him as her son and called him Moses.
In the most beloved story of a baby’s birth, there was no decorated nursery or designer crib—only a manger for the Savior of the world.
In “the best of times [and] … the worst of times,”15 the true Saints of God, acting in faith, have never forgotten, dismissed, or neglected “God’s commandment … to multiply and replenish the earth.”16 We go forward in faith—realizing the decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.
The bearing of children is a sensitive subject that can be very painful for righteous women who do not have the opportunity to marry and have a family. To you noble women, our Heavenly Father knows your prayers and desires. How grateful we are for your remarkable influence, including reaching out with loving arms to children who need your faith and strength.
The bearing of children can also be a heartbreaking subject for righteous couples who marry and find that they are unable to have the children they so anxiously anticipated or for a husband and wife who plan on having a large family but are blessed with a smaller family.
We cannot always explain the difficulties of our mortality. Sometimes life seems very unfair—especially when our greatest desire is to do exactly what the Lord has commanded. As the Lord’s servant, I assure you that this promise is certain: “Faithful members whose circumstances do not allow them to receive the blessings of eternal marriage and parenthood in this life will receive all promised blessings in the eternities, [as] they keep the covenants they have made with God.”17
Scott Dorius told me their story. He said:
“Becky and I were married for 25 years without being able to have [or adopt] children. We moved several times. Introducing ourselves in each new setting was awkward and sometimes painful. Church members wondered why we [didn’t have] children. They weren’t the only ones wondering.
“When I was called as a bishop, ward members [expressed] concern that I did not have any experience with children and teenagers. I thanked them for their sustaining vote and asked them to allow me to practice my child-raising skills on their children. They lovingly obliged.
“We waited, gained perspective, and learned patience. After 25 years of marriage, a miracle baby came into our lives. We adopted two-year-old Nicole and then newborn Nikolai. Strangers now compliment us on our beautiful grandchildren. We laugh and say, ‘They are our children. We have lived our lives backwards.’”18
Brothers and sisters, we should not be judgmental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility.
“And [Jesus] took a child … in his arms [and] said …
“Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth … him that sent me.”19
What a wonderful blessing we have to receive sons and daughters of God into our home.
Let us humbly and prayerfully seek to understand and accept God’s commandments, reverently listening for the voice of His Holy Spirit.
Families are central to God’s eternal plan. I testify of the great blessing of children and of the happiness they will bring us in this life and in the eternities.
By Michael A. Memoli – February 22, 2012, 6:43 p.m.
When the issue of contraception came up in tonight’s Republican debate, it offered the front-runners an attempt to finesse their positions on social issues to address seeming weaknesses.
For Mitt Romney, that meant taking a hard line againstPresident Obama and his administration’s decision to mandate that all employer insurance plans cover contraception — even those that are offered by religious institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities.
Needing to make up ground among those conservatives who have of late turned to Rick Santorum, Romney accused Obama of undermining religious freedom.
“I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama,” he said.
Rick Santorum was then asked to explain his statement to an Iowa blog about the “dangers of contraception.”
The former Pennsylvania senator has been dogged this week by the increased scrutiny that followed his rise in the national polls, particularly concerning his hard-line views on social issues.
His answer showed an effort to soften the edges a bit, and fuse it with an economic message, saying the poverty rate is five times higher in single-parent homes.
“The bottom line is that we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing,” he said. “How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically?”
He added: “Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.”
The actual question, submitted from a CNN viewer, asked which of the GOP hopefuls “believes in birth control.” The crowd booed it lustily, and Newt Gingrich kicked off the exchange by denouncing the media for a double standard in posing the question now.
“There is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign — not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide.“.
He was referring to a vote Obama cast in the state Senate in Illinois.
“If we’re going to have a debate about the extremist on these issues,
It is President Obama who … voted to protect
doctors who killed babies who survived the
abortion,” he said.
There was not universal agreement — Gingrich also attacked Romney for requiring religious hospitals to provide rape victims with emergency contraception, a stance Romney said he did not take. And Ron Paul slapped Santorum for voting to fund a federal program that provides family-planning healthcare to the poor, including to Planned Parenthood.
Santorum replied that the funding was contained in larger appropriations bills, and that he also proposed counter-funding for abstinence programs.
The Family – Is The Way
In a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make our families the center of our lives and the top of our priorities. Families lie at the center of our Heavenly Father’s plan. This statement from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declares the responsibilities of parents to their families:
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms. 127: 3).
Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.
Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”1
We call upon all families everywhere to put family first and to identify specific ways to strengthen their individual families.
We are currently experiencing major thunder storms across America. And let us never forget the refugee centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas that where devastated and displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina were staying as they began to try to put their lives back together. Their stories and situations are tragic and poignant in many ways, but in all that I heard, what touched me the most was the crying out for family: “Where is my mother?” “I can’t find my son.” “I’ve lost a sister.” These were hungry, frightened people who had lost everything and needed food, medical attention, and help of all kinds, but what they wanted and needed most was their families.
Every person will need approximately 1 Gallon of Water per day!
BE SURE with a SURE WATER TANK
Crisis or transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most. In the routine of life, we often take our families—our parents and children and siblings—for granted. But in times of danger and need and change, there is no question that what we care about most is our families! It will be even more so when we die and leave this life. Surely the first people we will seek to find there in the spirit world will be father, mother, spouse, children, and siblings.
Is your life’s mission statement for mortality “to build an eternal family?”
Here on this earth we strive to become part of extended families with the ability to create and form our own part of those families. That is one of the reasons our Heavenly Father sent us here. Not everyone will find a companion and have a family in mortality, but everyone, regardless of individual circumstances, is a precious member of God’s family.
It was then and is now a clarion call to protect and strengthen families with a stern warning to the world where declining values and misplaced priorities threaten to destroy society by undermining its basic unit of society, the family.
Many of the very things that have threatened and undermined families during the last decade reminds us of the priority and the emphasis families need if they are to survive in an environment that seems ever more toxic to traditional marriage and to parent-child relationships.
The confused and convoluted notions of our society cannot even agree on a definition of family, let alone supply the help and support parents and families need such as these:
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.”
“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”
“The disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”
The simple truth is that the family is “the fundamental unit of society.”
We call upon committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to the importance of The Family and to commit ourselves to live by God’s commandments and proven principles and precepts as we are all part of God’s family.
Public opinion surveys indicate that people everywhere in the world generally consider the family as the highest priority; yet in recent years the broader culture seems to ignore or misdefine the family. Consider some of the changes of the past decade:
Many larger national and international institutions that used to support and strengthen families now try to supplant and even sabotage the very families they were created to serve.
In the name of “tolerance,” the definition of family has been expanded beyond recognition to the point that “family” can be any individuals of any gender who live together with or without commitment or children or attention to consequence.
Rampant materialism and selfishness delude many into thinking that families, and especially children, are a burden and a financial millstone that will hold them back rather than a sacred privilege that will teach them to become more like God.
And yet most parents throughout the world continue to know both the importance and the joy that are attached to natural families. Suzanne and I have done much traveling and met friends, families, and parents on several continents and find that the hopes and concerns of parents are remarkably similar throughout the earth.
In India a concerned Hindu mother said, “All I want is to be a bigger influence on my children than the media and the peer group.” And a Buddhist mother in Malaysia said, “I’d like my boys to be able to operate in the world, but I don’t want them to be of the world.” Parents from all different cultures and faiths are saying and feeling the same things we are as parents of eight sons and twenty grandchildren.
The family is the basic unit of society, of the economy, of our culture, and of our government. And as Latter-day Saints, we know, the family will also be the basic unit in the celestial kingdom after this life.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our belief in the overriding importance of families is rooted in restored doctrine. We know of the sanctity of families in both directions of our eternal existence. We know that before this life we lived with our Heavenly Father as part of His family, and we know that family relationships can endure beyond death.
We live and act upon this knowledge, and invite the world to join us. Parents who place a high priority on their families will gravitate to their Churches because it offers the family structure, values, doctrine, and eternal perspective that they seek and cannot find elsewhere.
Our family-centered perspective makes us Latter-day Saints strive to be the best parents in the world. It gives us enormous respect for our children, who truly are our spiritual siblings, and it causes us to devote whatever time is necessary to strengthen our families. Indeed, nothing is more critically connected to happiness—both our own and that of our children—than how well we love and support one another within the family.
We believe the Church is a crucial “scaffolding” that helps build the individual and the family. The Church is the kingdom of God on earth, but in the kingdom of heaven, families will be both the source of our eternal progress and joy and the order of our Heavenly Father. When we have completed this life, we will be released from our jobs and occupations but if we are worthy, we will never be released from our family relationships.
One of our past Prophets, Joseph F. Smith said: “There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home, and every effort made to sanctify and preserve its influence is uplifting to those who toil and sacrifice for its establishment. Men and women often seek to substitute some other life for that of the home; they would make themselves believe that the home means restraint; that the highest liberty is the fullest opportunity to move about at will. There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life”. (Teachings of Presidents of theChurch: Joseph F. Smith , 382).
Now, one may ask, How do we protect and preserve and strengthen our homes and families in a world pulling so hard in opposite directions? Let me make three simple suggestions:
Be consistent in holding daily family prayer and meet as a family weekly which will invite the Lord’s Spirit, and which provides the help and power we need as parents and family leaders. Read the scriptures and other good books and our Church magazines that have good ideas for things to do as a family. Also take the time to share spiritual stories and your testimonies together where parents and children can express their beliefs and feelings to each other in a private and personal setting.
Teach the gospel and basic values in your home. Establish a love for reading the scriptures together. Too many of our parents are abdicating this responsibility to the Church. While seminary, auxiliaries, and Sunday School meetings are important as a supplement to parental gospel instruction, the main responsibility rests in the home. You might want to choose one gospel subject or a family value and then watch for opportunities to teach it. Be wise and do not involve children or yourselves in so many activities out of the home that you are so busy that the Spirit of the Lord cannot be recognized or felt in giving you the promised guidance for yourself and your family.
Create meaningful family bonds that give your children an identity stronger than what they can find with their peer group or at school or anyplace else. This can be done through family traditions for birthdays, for holidays, for dinnertime, and for Sundays. It can also be done through family policies and rules with natural and well-understood consequences. Have a simple family economy where children have specific chores or household duties and receive praise or other rewards commensurate to how well they do. Teach them the importance of avoiding debt and of earning, saving, and wisely spending money. Help them learn responsibility for their own temporal and spiritual self-reliance.
In today’s world, where Satan’s aggression against the family is so prevalent, parents must do all they can to fortify and defend their families. But their efforts may not be enough. Our most basic institution of family desperately needs help and support from the extended family and the public institutions that surround us. Families, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins can make a powerful difference in the lives of children. Remember that the expression of love and encouragement from an extended family member will often provide the right influence and help a child at a critical time.
The Church itself will continue to be the first and foremost institution—the “scaffolding,” as it were—to help build strong families. The Church has great concern about the well-being of your families, and thus you will see increasing efforts to prioritize and to focus on family needs. Put family first and identify specific ways to strengthen you individual families.
Public institutions need to examine themselves and do less that might harm families and more that will help them.
The media must offer more that promotes traditional family values that is uplifting and supportive of families and less that popularizes immorality and materialism.
The government and political leaders need to put the needs of children and parents first and to think in terms of family impact in all legislation and policy making.
Internet providers and Web site creators need to become more responsible regarding their potential for influence and to adopt the conscious objective of protecting children from violence, pornography, filth, and sleaze.
Educational entities need to teach universal values and family and parenting skills, supporting parents in their responsibility to raise children to become the leaders of families in generations yet to come.
Church members need to reach out in love to neighbors and friends of other faiths and include them in the use of the many resources their Church has to help families. Our communities and neighborhoods will be safer and stronger as people of all faiths work together to strengthen families.
It is important to remember that all larger units of society depend on the smallest and most fundamental unit, the family. No matter who or what we are, we help ourselves when we help families.
We hold up like a banner the proclamation to the world on the family and as we live and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will fulfill the measure of our creation here on earth. We will find peace and happiness here and in the world to come. We should not need a hurricane or other crisis to remind us of what matters most. The gospel and the Lord’s plan of happiness and salvation should remind us. What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity.
Evidence from a wide variety of sources supports the truth that marriage shaped by eternal principles is the path to greatest happiness and well-being in this life.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” declared the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”They went on to say that marriage is “essential to [God’s] eternal plan,” with husbands and wives under “solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.”
Then in 1999 President Gordon B. Hinckley reemphasized the crucial role of marriage with his admonition that “God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is.”Yet people keep trying to redefine it to legitimize worldly philosophies or to serve their own agendas. Increasingly, believers in God-ordained marriage are called on to defend the institution from those who say it is irrelevant or passé. Parents often find themselves looking for ways to demonstrate the importance of marriage to their children who are bombarded by pressures from the world and, all too often, from their friends and associates.
A few decades ago, a proclamation on marriage and its validity would hardly have seemed necessary. Alternative definitions of marriage didn’t exist, and there were no movies, television shows, books, or other media products promoting alternative lifestyles. But any examination of marriage today requires consideration of a divorce rate over 50 percent and a high acceptance in some areas of cohabitation, which enables couples to forgo commitment for a living-together arrangement that lasts, on the average, two years.Some now call marriage just another lifestyle choice and even question whether it needs to exist between a man and a woman. One respected reviewer has commented that family studies textbooks often “downplay the value of marriage,” employing warm platitudes to describe nontraditional unions and reserving heavy criticism for conventional marriages.
Not surprisingly, a recent study conducted by prominent social scientists David Popenoe and Barbara Defoe Whitehead found that young people in the United States today are increasingly apprehensive and pessimistic about marriage. They display a remarkable increase in acceptance of out-of-wedlock childbearing, single parenting, and living together before marriage. No wonder the number of people getting married in the United States has dropped so markedly.
Is the traditional definition of marriage urged by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” a lost cause? Is it true that the proclamation’s high ideals are merely anachronisms befitting earlier times? When the question arises, should defenders of the family concede that marriage is simply their personal preference?
A growing body of academic research and a burgeoning group of scholars in family studies are saying a firm “no” to all of those questions. Informed by an abundance of objective, highly respected studies of various countries, races, and economic classes, many social scientists now affirm that marriage is of great advantage to the well-being of men and women in a myriad of ways. In assuring happiness, a lasting marriage proves more beneficial physically, mentally, and economically than exercise programs, medical treatments, therapy sessions, or financial investments. Of course, statistics merely reflect general tendencies, and there are many exceptions. Conversely, unhappy marriages run a complex gamut—from the dissatisfied couples for whom the present marriage, though flawed, is better than the alternative, to partners who inflict harm on each other. Thus the following recital of benefits applies to happy marriages, the ideal that so many people still seek.
Findings reaffirm that marriage relationships need to be built on righteous principles—“a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other,” in the words of the proclamation. It is clear that marriages based on righteous principles are the kind of marriages that lead to lasting happiness.
Of course, academic studies deal in objective statistics and trends, not exceptions. While happily married people may enjoy an advantage in the statistics, this does not mean a devoted husband or wife will automatically escape problems common to all human beings—illness, financial strain, anxiety, and so forth. Neither do the statistics indicate that single individuals—widowed, divorced, or never-married—cannot be happy or achieve meaningful lives with physical, emotional, and economic stability. As many never-married, divorced, or widowed Latter-day Saints have discovered, reliance on the Lord brings spiritual and other compensations that research cannot quantify.
What the current research does offer to a secular world is objective evidence to support the teachings of God through the ages by the mouths of His prophets. These studies enable beleaguered defenders of traditional marriage to add proof to moral and religious convictions when they are called on to defend marriage in a modern society that often rejects it as an institution, discounting or denying its moral basis. Moreover, the findings reported here can help couples appreciate the subtle but powerful blessings that can be theirs as they build their marriages on righteous principles.
Health and Longevity
Overall, married people live longer, a statistical reality that is true across many different cultures, societies, and demographic groups.Typically, married people suffer less from illness and disease and are better off when they do fall ill.In fact, even illness recovery rates for married individuals are much higher than in the unmarried population.Married men and women also exhibit fewer risk-taking behaviors such as drunk driving, smoking, or drug abuse and have lower rates of suicide and alcoholism.
Some researchers argue that all of these benefits result merely from selectivity: the likelihood that already healthy individuals are selected into marriage. However, since research shows that positive health changes often take place after marriage, many individuals lean toward a causal,rather than a selection, theory: marriage itself causes good things to happen with one’s health.
Why? One psychology professor theorizes that the constant companionship between a husband and wife creates a “tranquilizing effect” which lessens the chances of disease, assists in recovery, and offers motivation to stay alive and well.Other analysts see a “safety net” that encourages healthy behavior: spouses remind each other to eat well, establish regular sleep patterns, and see the doctor periodically.
Men, in particular, benefit from such a safety net. While a woman’s statistical chance of dying decreases gradually over time once she marries, a man almost immediately upon marrying experiences a sharp statistical decrease in the hazard of dying. Researchers point to the improved lifestyle many men encounter in marriage, one which counteracts such tendencies as irregular meal and sleep habits and a lack of social integration.
For those concerned only with eating right and exercising to stay healthy, marriage researcher John Gottman offers a suggestion that aptly summarizes the research: “Remember,” he says, “working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club.”
Mental Health and Peace of Mind
In general, married people exhibit lower rates of depression and suffer significantly less from psychiatric disorders.Married people also enjoy higher general well-being than any unmarried segment of the population. One researcher says, “No part of the unmarried population—separated, divorced, widowed, or never married—describes itself as being so happy and contented with life as the married.” These findings extend across racial, national, and socioeconomic class boundaries.
How to explain the correlation between marriage and happiness? Researchers point to several reasons, prime among them being the spiritual connection marriage offers to a couple’s deepest values. In many cultures, a wedding usually means not just a legal tie but also a sacred vow before God and a religious community. The union between man and wife, according to John Gottman, often brings “a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together.”The deeper this shared spiritual meaning, the better the marriage, and the happier the people involved.
Some observers see a lasting marriage as offering a solid anchor in today’s rapidly changing, complex society. Men and women participate simultaneously as parents, in careers, in the community, and in hobbies. In marriage, social scientists suggest, people can successfully bring all of their different roles together: husbands and wives can discuss children’s problems, discuss work, and plan strategies for the future of family and career within a stable union which offers a secure base in a complicated world.
Marriage also can promote mental well-being by offering an extended social network. Spouses may be able to lean on the spiritual and emotional resources of two families, in effect doubling their support system in both bad and good times.Marriage can contribute to happiness by satisfying the deep human need for emotional closeness, providing a constant companion with whom to raise a family, go to church, and pray. It can also provide someone to take on the tasks one spouse is not good at—perhaps financial planning or cooking, for example—allowing each to focus on his or her strengths. This may sound simple, but experts say the “labor specialization” that comes in marriage works, and it does have an impact on peace of mind.
Research findings show that marriage and financial security are interconnected. Getting and staying married offer strong economic advantages. Generally, married couples are better off financially and save more than divorced, never-married, and widowed households. Per capita, they tend to invest greater amounts for education or retirement.
Typically, married women are better off economically than single women. Much of that financial advantage comes because a husband, in general, has greater earning power in today’s society. When a marriage dissolves and there are children involved, the results can be devastating because single mothers are at a greater economic disadvantage.But men also lose financially with divorce; a man’s financial well-being is greatly diminished, and later remarriage usually does not bring recovery.
Obviously, not all single or divorced individuals face economic difficulties, just as not all married couples are well-off or frugal. But the economic security that a stable marriage generally offers doesn’t mean being able to remodel the house every few years. It means greater access to food, clothing, health care, and education. It can also mean a secure life away from unsafe areas.
Studies unequivocally show that current levels of poverty result more from family structure than from economic factors. Where there is only one parent—usually a single mother—there is often poverty. Conversely, a stable, two-parent family, as the Progressive Policy Institute declares, “is [a] child’s best protection against poverty.”
Evidence defies the deceptive notion, prevalent in society, that marriage is sexually repressive and that affairs outside of it are fulfilling. This lie persists from years past and is perpetuated by a constant stream of movies, television, and books depicting the staple tale of the philandering husband or wife looking for excitement outside an affectionless marriage. However, this media image of sex, according to a researcher involved in a landmark study on the subject, “bears virtually no relationship to the truth.”
The truth lies much closer to the proclamation’s strong affirmation that “the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Those who abide by this moral code are much better off than those who don’t, according to consistent findings of research published in sources such as The Journal of the American Medical Association and The National Health and Social Life Survey.
Faithfully married people report being extremely satisfied with the physical intimacy in their relationships, more so than all other sexually active people. Married men and women are least likely to associate sex with feelings of fear, anxiety, or guilt.Also, unmarried couples who abstain from premarital sex are less likely to separate or divorce after marriage. Further, studies show that brides and grooms who have practiced chastity are less likely to have attitudes about marriage that contribute to adultery, divorce, and lower satisfaction with a married partner.
Conversely, says the research, those who abuse the sacred powers of procreation through premarital sex or living together ultimately find that the benefits of marriage do not extend to them.
While the late 20th century saw an enormous proliferation in the number of men and women living together without a marriage license, research data clearly show that cohabiting couples experience greater conflict, lower-quality relationships, less stability, and less equality for the women involved. Women who live with a man outside of marriage also experience much higher levels of depression and economic insecurity and are more likely to be forced into sexual relationships against their will. Both men and women involved in a cohabiting relationship report lower levels of sexual satisfaction, with infidelity a prime problem.
Further, when cohabiting couples do marry, they display very high divorce rates throughout the world, with one study finding that individuals who cohabit tend to marry, divorce, and then live with someone again. The marriage phase can often be marked by drunkenness, adultery, and drug abuse, and the cohabiting phase by a distinct separateness in handling finances, spending free time, and envisioning the future.
What of remarriage after divorce? Judging from the statistics, it does not generate all the benefits of a first marriage. Remarriages may be marked by higher instability and higher divorce rates than first marriages. However, remarriage after the death of a spouse tends to avoid these statistical hazards, and the stepfamily challenge for those whose spouses died is not as daunting as that faced by post-divorce stepparents.
Yet to say that remarriages are statistically more difficult than first marriages does not mean that they are not preferable to remaining single or to other alternatives to marriage. Perhaps those who think it might be easier just to start over rather than deal with the challenges of a difficult first marriage should consider the statistics before getting divorced.
A Responsibility to Love and Care
While research studies clearly demonstrate that the satisfaction level of people in good marriages is high, the data hardly guarantee perfect physical health, constant happiness, complete financial security, or blissful intimate relationships. What the research reveals is general trends, and the findings also show that those positive trends are muchmore likely to flourish in a healthy marital atmosphere.
And just what is a “healthy marital atmosphere”? Studies of successful marriages indicate that it includes the following vital elements:
Religious commitment is a high predictor of marital happiness and promotes other qualities central to the success of a marriage.
Happily married couples realize that marriage and family life can be difficult. When problems arise, they tend to stay committed and sacrifice their own desires for the good of the family.
Successful couples have a good understanding of one another, defend each other, and respect each other’s opinions and choices.
Successful couples realize that family life may be difficult and burdensome, but despite the challenges of marriage, divorce is not viewed as a helpful option. A realistic couple refrains from imagining, when problems arise, “Oh, no! I haven’t married the right person after all!” or “If only we can manage to just stay in love!” Couples in love have problems, and the list of crucial characteristics of successful marriages does not include having found the perfect spouse or sustaining the emotional intensity of the honeymoon.
Even successful marriages deal with their share of “unsolvable” problems: fundamental differences in personalities, desires, and goals that are not going to be changed or solved. But lasting marriages succeed even in the face of “unsolvable” problems through forgiveness, compromise, tolerance, patience, and acceptance.
Lasting marriages successfully solve “solvable” problems—arising over everything from work schedules to trip locations—through discussions marked by “soft” beginnings void of harsh accusations. To calm escalating feelings, they also rely on “repair attempts”: tactful humor, conciliatory comments, or soothing gestures.
Successful marriages require maturity. Thus teenage marriages are much more likely to end in divorce than marriages formed when partners are more mature.
Happy marriages avoid tendencies that religious leaders have preached against through the ages: narcissism, adultery, worldliness, and contempt for God-given values.
Finally, studies show that lasting marriages rely on a deep friendship marked by positive feelings rather than negative ones. Feelings are important. As one writer states, “Because our actions reflect the whole climate of our minds, everything that contributes to that climate—which means all of our thoughts and actions, however ‘inconsequential’—is potentially of great importance.”Positive thoughts, according to a lead researcher on marriage, contribute to a positive overflow in marriage that helps couples deal successfully with stressful tragedies as well as daily annoyances.
It is indeed a solemn responsibility to show the love and care needed to build this kind of successful relationship, for ultimately many of the blessings of marriage spring from our ability to share love.
The Glue of Society
Affection, security, and a long life with health and happiness—obviously, this is the marital ideal. Not all marriages will reach it, and not all marriages can or should be preserved. But couples who completely abandon the ideal pay high costs, including increased physical, mental, and emotional problems for themselves and tragic consequences of divorce for their children.Society suffers, too, from the loss of the ideal, because marriage not only strengthens communities and benefits economies, but also ensures responsible sexual union by keeping parents attached to their children.
In many ways, marriage is the glue holding society together. Even more important, it is an eternal principle that all of us—whether single or married—need to uphold and defend. It benefits not only husbands and wives but the entire world.
This should come as no surprise, since it was ordained and blessed by God Himself.
The Foundation of Happiness
“Happiness at home is most likely to be achieved when practices there are founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” Ensign, May 1999, 39–40.
The Capacity to Love
“The deeper our own mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves are, the greater will be our capacity to nurture and love others, especially our companion.” Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, “A Union of Love and Understanding,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 48.
A more extensive treatment of these findings is in David C. Dollahite, ed., Strengthening Our Families: An In-depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family (2000).