In chapter 15 of John, the Savior addresses the disciples of his day and explains to them what is expected of them. He begins with a parable and explains that the Father in heaven is the husbandman of the vineyard of the Lord, and then he says that he himself is the vine. He adds the thought that we are the branches on the vine, and the branches are expected to bring forth much fruit.
And he says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1–2.)
So he expects us constantly to bring forth more fruit, and he explains that unless we abide in him, we cannot bring forth fruit any more than the branch on the vines could bring forth fruit if it were not still living in the vine.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4.)
This is a great invitation on the part of the Savior to come close to him and abide in him and be strengthened by his Spirit, and then that Spirit will purge us and strengthen us and cleanse us and sanctify us so that we can bring forth even more fruit. Next he says, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit. …” (John 15:8.)
One of my favorite portions of this chapter is verse 16. This verse is sometimes used by the missionaries to prove divine authority, and they do it properly, of course. But generally they don’t go far enough and do not read the whole scripture. Here is what this verse says:
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. …” That was the purpose of the call. That’s the the purpose of your call—to bring into the organization, into full activity, those who now are not with us.
There is still another part of this quotation that is extremely important. Not only does he say that he has chosen us and ordained us that we should go and bring forth fruit, but he says “your fruit should remain.” In other words, we should do our work so well, we should be so strong in our organization, we should be so warm in our teachings, we should be so strong in our fellowshiping that we will keep the people close to us so that they will not fall away. They will not become apostate in any sense; they will not cool off.
I believe that if every Latter-day Saint could catch the real meaning of what the Savior says here, it would almost revolutionize our work. We are expected to bring forth much fruit; we shall be purged so that we may bring forth more fruit, and the purpose of our call is that we should go and bring forth fruit and do it so effectively that our fruit will remain. And so it is that we have this marvelous Relief Society program.
I am delighted with the comments my wife makes from week to week as she comes home from Relief Society and tells me about the lesson discussions that have gone on there, and how the sisters have been lifted up in their souls. I have been very grateful for the series of lesson discussions that are conducted in the weekly Relief Society meetings, and I strongly recommend that you use these in your contacts with the people you now are to bring into the organization, as a means of instruction, of fellowship, and of holding them in the organization so that the fruit will remain.
And if we can do this through this marvelous lesson program, we can build stronger homes, we will have stronger marriages, and we will bring into the homes of many families, which now know it not, the spirit of family prayer.
Homemaking—twenty-four hours a day. That is the work of the Relief Society. And what is the type of homemaking of which we speak? It is the creation of an atmosphere in a home wherein good character can be formed, faith may be instilled, and young people may have the opportunity of being taught how to fulfill their eternal destiny.
And with what purpose? To extend to every child, to every son and daughter of God, the opportunity of living as the Lord would have us live, rather than falling into the devious and forbidden paths that today lead so many millions to destruction in almost every nation on earth.
How does the Relief Society accomplish this? By making us aware of the dangers that face our homes and by providing for us a defense against these dangers, as well as a program for successful living once the hazards are met. It provides cultural refinement, assistance in social relations, and a spiritual quality that gives significance to both, not for this life only, but for all eternity as well.
Are not our homes in greater need of this assistance now than at any other time within our knowledge?
Are not home and family being attacked now as never before? Are we to silently bow in subjection to the assaults from the enemy?
Are we of this generation to be weaklings in the face of severe opposition to the truth? Are we to believe them and follow after them, or are we willing to learn from the prophets the true way of the Lord?
It was the Prophet Joseph Smith who established the Relief Society, and the objectives that he gave at that time are even more meaningful today. They are not only to provide aid for the poor and the sick and the unfortunate and to minister where death reigns, but they are likewise to give guidance and training in homemaking and to assist in correcting morals and strengthening the virtues of the community; to raise human life to its highest level; to elevate and enlarge the scope of woman’s activities and conditions; to foster love for religion, education, culture, and refinement; to develop faith; to save souls; to study and to teach the gospel. Our need for these vital facets of life becomes increasingly necessary as time goes on.
We of today must develop a keener sense of discrimination between that which is false and that which is true. In order to do this, we must have the necessary background to give us a true sense of values so that we will recognize the good and eschew the evil.
That is what Relief Society does for the women of the Church. It gives them this sense of value and a keen sense of discrimination.
From the beginning the Lord has urged us to recognize evil for what it is. And even though it resembles wolves in sheep’s clothing, or if it even has a form of godliness at times, we are still advised, “From such turn away.” When the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, cautioned us against man-made theories and doctrines, he referred to more than baptism and the resurrection. Man-made philosophies that are at variance with revealed truth are fables as truly now as they were in the days of Paul or of Joseph Smith, and the warning is still the same: “From such turn away.”
When men say that sin is no longer sin because the whole concept of personal behavior has been reassessed by modern thinkers, are we to believe them?
When the moral values of the past are no longer regarded as values by the men of the world today, are we to agree with them?
When sanctity is removed from the institution of marriage, are we to imitate the worldly example?
When it becomes popular to revel in filth and to ridicule virtue, shall we follow that trend also?
Because the world legalizes abortion, are we to cast aside the divine law which forbids the taking of life?
When two children to a family becomes the accepted rule in worldly circles, are we to discard the Lord’s commands concerning family responsibilities?
If pseudo-scientists violating the teachings of their own legitimate scholars say there is no God, are we to cast aside our faith and apostatize?
If we are persecuted for being “a peculiar people,” shall we “shrink or shun the fight”?
There is no need to be frightened by the scare tactics of agitators who are trying their best to influence the women of the world to refuse to obey the Lord’s command to multiply and replenish the earth.
What if there are slums in great cities like New York, London, and Tokyo? It is obvious, of course, that those places are overcrowded, but this does not mean that the entire planet is running out of space. Although India has a major population problem with 570 million people crammed into a little more than a million square miles, it might be remembered that Australia has twice that much land and only one-fortieth the population of India. Canada, Brazil, and Russia combined all have vast empty spaces, and although much of this space is jungle or steppe or desert, the Israelis in Palestine have demonstrated that technology and hard work can make even the most inhospitable land support new settlers.
Taken as a whole, the United States still has only 58 people per square mile, scarcely one-sixth of the density of Switzerland, and yet when visitors go to Switzerland they do not feel that that country is overcrowded. About 70 percent of all Americans have jammed themselves together into about 2 percent of the land area. Half of the counties in the nation have lost population during the last decade. It is reliably estimated also that the world’s farmers can feed a population forty times as large as that of today, if proper agricultural methods are used.
I ask you, where would the world be today without the large families of the past?
It will be remembered that George Washington was one of ten children in his family. General Eisenhower, later President Eisenhower, was one of seven sons. Thomas Jefferson was third in a family of ten children. John F. Kennedy was one of nine; Thomas A. Edison was the last of seven children in his family; and the father of Benjamin Franklin had seventeen children.
Think of our own church for a moment. Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was the fourth of ten children. Brigham Young was the ninth of eleven. John Taylor was the second of ten. Wilford Woodruff was the third of nine children. Lorenzo Snow was one of seven. The father of Joseph F. Smith had eight children. Heber J. Grant was one of eight children of his father. George Albert Smith was the second of nineteen children of his father, and President David O. McKay was the third of ten children.
Many are the peculiar notions that the world is foisting upon us these days. For example, in order to make divorce easier, some clergymen now are recommending changes in the marriage ceremonies that they customarily use in their churches. Eliminating the vow, “until death do you part,” one clergyman substituted the words, “so long as I am able,” and has the couple pledge to “have and to hold in the power and strength of our love for each other from this day forward, so long as I am able.”
The wife of this clergyman explained that her husband didn’t really mean “so long as I am able,” even though he had written that in the ceremony; actually he intended to have it read, “so long as we remain in love.”
One of the great difficulties involved in preserving the home of today is the willingness of many to condone the tendency to stray from their marital vows. It is appalling that in one of the leading Christian countries of the world a survey of married couples revealed that 79 percent of the women condone extramarital activity, as do 85 percent of the men. It is almost unbelievable. The study in that country, which, by the way, was not the United States, brought out also that 49 percent of all concerned actually expect their marriages to evolve into some form of a free union.
And in that land at least 90 percent of the population are professed Christians. How well do they believe their religion? What did the Savior say about easy divorce? What did he think of extramarital activity? What did the Almighty say about morals in general?
And speaking of maintaining discriminating values, were you not shocked recently by the announcement of the changes in the movie ratings, wherein X and R movies are now to be released as though they were GP? When Life magazine commented on this trend, it quoted one of the movie producers as saying, “The game these days is to bring in a movie that gets away with as much as possible and at the same time inveigles a GP rating which insures you more or less widespread distribution.”
The public is being deceived by the ratings, many people not knowing even what the letters GP stand for. It is certainly no wonder that the movies are failing as a means of public entertainment and that they now have only 4 percent of the entertainment dollar in the United States.
Sisters of the Relief Society, you must learn increasingly to be discriminating about conditions in the world. Of necessity we live in the world and hence must face its issues. The Relief Society helps you mothers to develop this discriminating sense of values so that you can intelligently choose the right from the wrong. The study courses provided in the weekly meetings of Relief Society will do this for you, and thus help you to fight these evils and save your families and your homes.
The time has come when righteousness must be made a fighting force in the world; not a passive thing as it so often is, but a power that will combat evil on its own ground.
Vice has increased so rapidly in the past few years that if it is not stopped, it will engulf us. The silent majority of good-living people—and they still are in the majority, I am thankful to say—can no longer recline as a sleeping giant in a circle of self-content. This silent majority of righteousness must now assert itself with power. First and foremost, each one of us must put our own homes in order. Each one of us must drive from our own homes every invitation to sin, every vestige of pornography, every evil TV or radio program, and every unclean book or magazine.
To do this effectively, we as parents must recognize the evils that are about us. If we are to be rated as a peculiar people because we like righteousness, then peculiar we must remain, and we shall not shrink nor shun the fight.
If the world goes against the revealed word, we nevertheless must be loyal to God, regardless of what the world may say. We have had fingers pointed at us before and we have always survived.
As true followers of Christ, we must be willing to suffer for his truth if need be; and when the rains of criticism descend and the floods of disapproval appear and the winds of ridicule beat upon our house, let us remember that, after all, we are founded upon a rock—the rock of Christ—and we shall not fail.
So far as the uninspired wisdom of men is concerned, remember the admonition of the scriptures: “From such turn away.”
Let us maintain the standards that are provided for us in this Church. Let us get the most out of Relief Society, which can help us to so strengthen our homes that every one of them will become a bastion against all the assaults of the evil one. And let us remember that the Savior has given us a charge. He has given us a call to bring forth much fruit and has declared that we must work so well that the fruit will remain. That we may do this is my humble and honest prayer in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.