In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent. . . President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.” He continued: “I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.” The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”
Home life, proper teaching in the home, parental guidance and leadership—these are the panacea for the ailments of the world and its children. They are the cure for spiritual and emotional diseases and the remedy for its problems. . . Constant training, constant vigilance, companionship, and being watchmen of our own children are necessary in order to keep our homes intact and to bless our children in the Lord’s own way. . . We need continually to fortify our homes and families and defend them against the onslaught of evils such as divorce, broken families, brutality, and abuse, especially of wives and children. We need to constantly guard against immorality, pornography, and sexual permissiveness that would destroy the purity of the family members, young and old. Such evils are very real and very threatening. One has but to read the headlines of our newspapers and magazines to become frighteningly aware of the crumbling, destructive influences which surround us. Perhaps I sound like an alarmist. If so, it is because I am alarmed. I am greatly concerned, and so are my Brethren in the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles and others of the General Authorities. If we could but suggest you go home and lock these evils out by closing and bolting the windows and locking the doors of your homes securely, it would be a simple matter. However, such security would be ineffective against the evils of which we speak. They come into our homes on ether waves by radio and the television screen. We find these evil forces almost everywhere we go. Exposure is almost constant. We track them into the home from the school, from the playground, from the theater, the office, and the marketplace. There are but few places we go in our everyday world where we can escape them. . . If we would escape those deadly thrusts of the evil one and keep our homes and families free and solidly fortified against all destructive influences so rampant about us, we must have the help of the very founder and organizer of this family plan—the Creator himself. There is only one sure way and that is through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and being obedient to its profound and inspired teachings. Surely we must be made to realize that the purchase price of a family hearth free of such evil influences is the keeping of the commandments of God.
Brothers and sisters, if we faithfully have family prayer, scripture study, family home evening, priesthood blessings, and Sabbath day observance, our children will know what time it is at home. They will be prepared for an eternal home in heaven, regardless of what befalls them in a difficult world. It is vitally important that our children know they are loved and safe at home. Husbands and wives are equal partners. They have different but complementary responsibilities. The wife may bear children, which blesses the entire family. The husband may receive the priesthood, which blesses the entire family. But in family council, wives and husbands, as equal partners, make the most important decisions. They decide how the children will be taught and disciplined, how money will be spent, where they will live, and many other family decisions. These are made jointly after seeking guidance from the Lord. The goal is an eternal family. The Light of Christ plants the eternal nature of the family in the hearts of all God’s children. One of my favorite writers, not of our faith, said it this way: “So much in life is extraneous, [but] … the family is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; the thing to watch over and care for and be loyal to.”
Every day of our lives we are given opportunities to show love and kindness to those around us. Said President Spencer W. Kimball: “We must remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve. It will do us little good to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers and sisters.” Often our opportunities to show our love come unexpectedly. . . Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. Lamented President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why is it that the [ones] we love [most] become so frequently the targets of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?” The answers to these questions may be different for each of us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons do not matter. If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.
But, of course, marriage cannot wait for that. We shall marry, have our families, teach and train them, while we are learning these other things and building toward our creatorship. Marriage should come when we are reasonably young, to procreate and bear children, to have the patience to teach and train them and to grow up with them. Hence, marriage is a must, an early must. Of course, we would decry child marriages, but when young people are in their upper years of collegiate work surely it is time to plan this important life’s work. Missionaries should begin to think marriage—when they return from their missions, to begin to get acquainted with many young women so that they will have a better basis for selection of a life’s companion. And when the time comes they should marry in the holy temple and have their families, and complete their education, and establish themselves in a profitable and rewarding occupation, and give themselves to their families, the gospel, and the Church. . . The first commandment recorded seems to have been “Multiply and replenish the earth.” Let no one ever think that the command came to have children without marriage. No such suggestion could ever have foundation. When God had created the woman, he brought her unto the man and gave her to him as his wife, and commanded, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” There is enough in that one line to make a hundred sermons. Think it through very carefully, every word. This was not the evolution of Adam to human status. Adam was already an intelligent, trained, and knowledgeable man. He was a prophet in his first recorded days on earth, and this prophet blessed God and prophesied concerning his posterity.
For Latter-day Saints, God’s commandments are based on and inseparable from God’s plan for His children—the great plan of salvation. This plan, sometimes called the “great plan of happiness”, explains our origin and destiny as children of God—where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. The plan of salvation explains the purpose of creation and the conditions of mortality, including God’s commandments, the need for a Savior, and the vital role of mortal and eternal families. If we Latter-day Saints, who have been given this knowledge, do not establish our priorities in accord with this plan, we are in danger of serving other gods. Knowledge of God’s plan for His children gives Latter-day Saints a unique perspective on marriage and family. We are correctly known as a family-centered church. Our theology begins with heavenly parents, and our highest aspiration is to attain the fulness of eternal exaltation. We know this is possible only in a family relationship. We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life. We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.
The main effects of these depreciating attitudes about the sanctity of marriage are the consequences to families—the strength of families is deteriorating at an alarming rate. This deterioration is causing widespread damage to society. I see direct cause and effect. As we give up commitment and fidelity to our marriage partners, we remove the glue that holds our society together. A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father. His goal is our eternal happiness, and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy. How significant are the home and the family to our eternal happiness? On page 141 of my little brown book, it states, “Indeed our heaven is little more than a projection of our homes into eternity.” The doctrine of the family and the home was recently reiterated with great clarity and forcefulness in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It declared the eternal nature of families and then explained the connection to temple worship. The proclamation also declared the law upon which the eternal happiness of families is predicated, namely, “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love. Men in particular sang this universal lament: they “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill of … work.” Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends. They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them.Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life. Is it? I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can’t see it. Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time. In our day it is easy to merely pretend to spend time with others. With the click of a mouse, we can “connect” with thousands of “friends” without ever having to face a single one of them. Technology can be a wonderful thing, and it is very useful when we cannot be near our loved ones. My wife and I live far away from precious family members; we know how that is. However, I believe that we are not headed in the right direction, individually and as a society, when we connect with family or friends mostly by reposting humorous pictures, forwarding trivial things, or linking our loved ones to sites on the Internet. I suppose there is a place for this kind of activity, but how much time are we willing to spend on it? If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it. Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories.
It is in the home that our behavior is most significant. It is the place where our actions have the greatest impact, for good or ill. Sometimes we are so much “at home” that we no longer guard our words. We forget simple civility. If we are not on guard, we can fall into the habit of criticizing one another, losing our tempers, or behaving selfishly. Because they love us, our spouses and children may be quick to forgive, but they often carry away in silence unseen injuries and unspoken heartache. There are too many homes where children fear their parents or where wives fear their husbands. Our leaders have reminded us that “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness,” and warned “that individuals who … abuse spouse or offspring … will one day stand accountable before God”. The adversary knows that if he can foster an atmosphere of contention, conflict, and fear in the home, the Spirit is grieved, and the cords that ought to bind the family are weakened. . . Our home should ideally be a refuge where each member feels safe, secure, loved, and insulated from harsh criticism and contention that we so often encounter in the world.
It is a great challenge to raise a family in the darkening mists of our moral environment. We emphasize that the greatest work you will do will be within the walls of your home, and that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home”. The measure of our success as parents, however, will not rest solely on how our children turn out. That judgment would be just only if we could raise our families in a perfectly moral environment, and that now is not possible. It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons or daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should. It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled. “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.” We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them.
This evening I look into the eyes of beautiful younger women, who dream of lives of accomplishment and happiness. I look into the eyes of mothers, who carry in their hearts anxieties concerning their homes and their children. I look into the eyes of single parents whose burdens are so very heavy, and who, in their loneliness, plead and pray for strength and companionship. I look into the eyes of grandmothers and great-grandmothers whose years are many, who have weathered the storms that have beat upon them and who have drunk deeply from the waters of life, some of them brackish, some of them sweet. I am grateful for the presence of each one of you. I am grateful for the strength that you have and for your loyalty, your faith, your love. I am thankful for the resolution which you carry in your hearts to walk in faith, to keep the commandments, to do what is right at all times and in all circumstances. I believe this is the best season for women in all the history of the world. In opportunities for education, for the training of your hands and minds, there has never before been a time when doors were so widely opened to you as they are today. But neither has there been a time, at least in recent history, when you have been confronted with more challenging problems. . . With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation: . . . THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD . . . May the Lord bless you, my beloved sisters. You are the guardians of the hearth. You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God. May you be strengthened for the challenges of the day. May you be endowed with wisdom beyond your own in dealing with the problems you constantly face. May your prayers and your pleadings be answered with blessings upon your heads and upon the heads of your loved ones. We leave with you our love and our blessing, that your lives may be filled with peace and gladness. It can be so.
We have something that this world needs to hear about, and these interviews afford an opportunity to give voice to that. One of the most extensive was with Mr. Mike Wallace of the CBS “60 Minutes” program. . . Mr. Wallace: “Since World War II, we seem to be splintering; we seem to be becoming more selfish, more self-absorbed, less community-minded. Families don’t seem to mean so much, and morality has gone to hell (his expression) in a handbasket. Why?” Response: “The basic failure is in our homes. Parents haven’t measured up to their responsibilities. It is evident. A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its homes. If you want to reform a nation, you begin with families, with parents who teach their children principles and values that are positive and affirmative and will lead them to worthwhile endeavors. That is the basic failure that has taken place in America. And we are making a tremendous effort to bring about greater solidarity in families. Parents have no greater responsibility in this world than the bringing up of their children in the right way, and they will have no greater satisfaction as the years pass than to see those children grow in integrity and honesty and make something of their lives . . . ”
My dear boys and girls, honor your fathers and mothers. They will help you make good decisions. Enjoy and respect your grandparents. Be a real friend to your brothers and sisters. Choose friends who have high ideals. Choose friends who will help you to be good. Attend sacrament meeting. Listen carefully to what your bishop says. He is an important spiritual leader who has a special calling from Heavenly Father to help you. Enjoy Primary, and attend every week. Bring your member and nonmember friends to Primary. Learn the Primary songs well. They are wonderful. Memorize the Articles of Faith and earn the Gospel in Action Award. Be honest. Do not lie nor steal. Do not cheat. Do not use profanity, but be clean in your thoughts and speech. Be a true Latter-day Saint. Stand up for your beliefs. . . Remember, Satan does not want you to be happy. He does not want you to dare to do right. He wants you to be miserable, as he is. He has captured the hearts of wicked men and women who would have you participate in bad things such as pornography, drugs, profanity, and immorality. Stay away from these evils. Avoid books, magazines, videos, movies, and television shows that are not good. As the scriptures tell us, avoid the very appearance of evil. Dress modestly. Choose clothing that covers your body properly. Behave in a courteous and polite way. Live the Word of Wisdom. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Listen to good music. Do your best to be good. Do well in your school work and strive to be a good student. With help from your parents, begin your own library of favorite tapes, books, and pictures which are available at Church distribution centers. Enjoy reading each month in your home the Friend magazine or the international magazines. Love the country in which you live. Be a good citizen. Be patriotic. Fly your country’s flag on special holidays. Pray for your country’s leaders.
We love you who are the elderly in the Church. You are the fastest-growing segment of our population in the world today, as well as within the Church. Our desires are that your golden years will be wonderful and rewarding. We pray that you will feel the joy of a life well-spent and one filled with fond memories and even greater expectations through Christ’s atonement. We hope you will feel of the peace the Lord promised those who continue to strive to keep His commandments and follow His example. We hope your days are filled with things to do and ways in which you can render service to others who are not as fortunate as you. Older almost always means better, for your wealth of wisdom and experience can continue to expand and increase as you reach out to others. May we suggest eight areas in which we can make the most of our senior years: 1. Work in the temple and attend often. 2. Collect and write family histories. 3. Become involved in missionary service. 4. Provide leadership by building family togetherness. 5. Accept and fulfill Church callings. 6. Plan for your financial future. 7. Render Christlike service. 8. Stay physically fit, healthy, and active. . . Again, we should prayerfully seek inspiration and direction in caring for the elderly. There is always a great diversity of individuals and individual needs. God bless the elderly in the Church. I love you with all my heart. I am one of you. You have so much to live for. May these golden years be your very best years as you fully live and love and serve. And God bless those who minister to your needs—your family, your friends, and your fellow Church members and leaders.
In 1997, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of those who made the great trek across the plains to find freedom to worship according to their beliefs, it seems appropriate that we take time to remember those who did so much for us to bring the gospel into our families. First, each of us has these special accounts in our family histories of the sacrifices that were made for us to be blessed with a knowledge of the gospel. In some families, you may be the first member to join. You become its pioneer family. Therefore you have the obligation to record in your history who brought the converting power of the gospel to you. . . We cannot isolate ourselves from those around us. Our good name can be a special valued asset worth more than the riches of the world. In the Lord’s grand design for his children, he placed families as a centerpiece of his organizational structure. The scriptures always have their beginning in a family setting. In the Old Testament we have the story of Adam and Eve. The New Testament begins with the genealogy of our Savior. The Book of Mormon’s first lines are “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.” Near the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants is an excerpt from Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith reminding us of the visitation of Elijah the prophet. In the Pearl of Great Price, again, is told the story of our first earthly parents. Your good name connects you with your past family history. Your righteous living, your example, your teachings, and your worthwhile service will bless numerous people with your vision. It is almost impossible to comprehend the number. May the Lord bless you with a greater understanding of his great plan of happiness and your special role in it. I add my witness to the many who have stood in this place over many years that families are important. Your name is special. It is recorded in the histories of our Father in Heaven, and how you value that, how you treat it, will literally affect generations to come. God bless you with the vision that is yours of who you are and the great privilege that is yours to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.
A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive—the setting for the birth of children, who come in purity and innocence from God, and the environment for the learning and preparation they will need for a successful mortal life and eternal life in the world to come. A critical mass of families built on such marriages is vital for societies to survive and flourish. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage and the family as privileged institutions. It has never been just about the love and happiness of adults. The social science case for marriage and for families headed by a married man and woman is compelling. And so “we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” But our claims for the role of marriage and family rest not on social science but on the truth that they are God’s creation. It is He who in the beginning created Adam and Eve in His image, male and female, and joined them as husband and wife to become “one flesh” and to multiply and replenish the earth. Each individual carries the divine image, but it is in the matrimonial union of male and female as one that we attain perhaps the most complete meaning of our having been made in the image of God—male and female. Neither we nor any other mortal can alter this divine order of matrimony. It is not a human invention. Such marriage is indeed “from above, from God” and is as much a part of the plan of happiness as the Fall and the Atonement.