At the heart of society’s fatal sickness is the instability of the family. Being conscious of this and concerned about it, may I point out how the scriptures relate to family stability.
Perhaps an accurate short example would be to say that the scriptures relate to the stability of a family much the same as a set of working drawings and specifications relates to a building.
We have under construction on the block east of Temple Square a high-rise building. Before ground was broken for that structure, every detail thereof, from subsoil to tower pinnacle, was considered, planned, and drawn out. Specifications covering in detail all labor and material requirements were reduced to writing. I remember with what care a study was made to determine how strong the steel to be used would have to be in order to withstand earthquake shock and wind pressure. The completed plans and specifications were submitted to and considered by the contractors as they bid the job. In the construction of the building, these plans are being meticulously followed.
From the scriptures we learn that the Lord himself, before creating the earth, planned all things pertaining thereto in detail.
“… I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth;
“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. …” (Moses 3:4–5.)
Now, families are of infinitely more worth than buildings. They are of more worth than the earth itself. The Lord has said that all his creations, including the earth, are calculated to aid in his great work, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) He has further revealed the fact that no man can gain eternal life except as a member of an enduring and stable family. This being so, it is inconceivable that God would not have a plan and specifications for building the family, his most precious and enduring creation. The fact is, he did have such a plan and specifications. Both are set forth in the scriptures.
To understand and follow God’s plans and specifications for building families is as essential to the building of stable and enduring families as is understanding and following plans and specifications for material buildings and planets. That God’s plans and specifications for the building of families are not understood and followed accounts in large measure for the instability of the family in modern society.
The scriptures reveal the fact that the family is a divine and not a man-made institution. They make it clear that God is the literal Father of a great family to which all the inhabitants of the earth belong; that the spirits of men are his begotten sons and daughters; that his work and his glory is to bring them to the perfection and exaltation which he himself enjoys. The scriptures explain that in order for them to obtain such perfection, they must be tabernacled in physical bodies of flesh and bone and then be proved in a mortal probation.
God’s plan for the accomplishment of this objective provided for his spirit children to be clothed in mortal bodies and then be united as husbands and wives by the power of his holy priesthood; that so wedded, they were to be, while in mortality, under divine covenant to multiply and replenish the earth—that is, to provide mortal bodies for other of God’s spirit children and thus assist him in bringing to pass their eternal life.
The plan provides that couples so married shall in eternity persist as husbands and wives and there progress until they eventually reach perfection and themselves become parents of spirit children.
Such was the plan designed by the Lord for families before the foundations of this earth were laid.
To implement this great plan, “God created man in his own image … male and female …” (Gen. 1:27), not only in form, but he joined them—after the order of his own marital status—in holy wedlock as husband and wife for eternity. Having done so, he commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Gen. 1:28.)
The idea that marriage is a man-made social custom that may be done away with at will is of the evil one. Not only is marriage God-ordained: his plan calls for it to be enduring, as it must be for the building of stable and enduring families. When the Pharisees came to Jesus “and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? … he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
“And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
“And Jesus answered and said … For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
“And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
“And [then] in the house his disciples asked him … of the same matter.
“And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
“And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mark 10:2–12.)
If the teachings of Jesus as they are found in the Bible scriptures were followed, honorable marriage would be the objective of all men and there would be no divorce. This would eliminate a major cause of family instability.
In addition to what Jesus taught about marriage and divorce, there is much additional scripture. Paul, for example, wrote the Corinthians that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
Some things Paul said about marriage are, as Peter said, a bit “hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16), but concerning the separation of husband and wife he spoke clearly and with emphasis. Having been directed by the Lord, he said:
“… unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.
“But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10–11.)
The utterances of modern prophets on the subject of marriage and divorce are in full harmony with the Bible scriptures.
As to marriage, the Prophet Joseph received the following revelation:
“… verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.” (D&C 49:15.)
President Brigham Young is quoted as saying on April 6, 1845:
“I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity; and I say so to every man upon the face of the earth; if he wishes to be saved he cannot be saved without a woman by his side.” (Times and Seasons, vol. 6, p. 955.)
The following is a quotation from President Joseph F. Smith, father of President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“I want the young men of Zion to realize that this institution of marriage is not a man-made institution. It is of God. It is honorable, and no man who is of marriageable age is living his religion who remains single. … Marriage is the preserver of the human race. Without it, the purposes of God would be frustrated; virtue would be destroyed to give place to vice and corruption, and the earth would be void and empty.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 272.)
As already stated, in our consideration of the Lord’s overall plan, his purpose for the institution of enduring marriage was propagation: the bringing of God’s spirit children into mortal life. The scriptures are as specific on this point as they are concerning marriage and divorce.
“Wherefore, it is lawful that [a man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
“And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.” (D&C 49:16–17.)
In another scripture, the Lord says that wives are given unto men “to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.” (D&C 132:63.)
I can think of no more profound and glorious scripture than this, which declares the purpose of marriage to be, first, that the earth “might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made,” thereby continuing the work of the Father “that he may be glorified”; and second, that men may obtain for themselves “exaltation in the eternal worlds” according to the promise “given by [the] Father before the foundation of the world.”
With this divine concept of marriage, divorce, and the bearing of children in mind, it is easy to understand the following statements of the modern prophets.
From President Brigham Young:
“There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty?—To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into the families of the wicked, where they will be trained in wickedness, debauchery, and every species of crime. It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can.” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Deseret Book Co., 1943], p. 197.)
With respect to birth control, President Joseph F. Smith said, in 1917:
“I regret, I think it is a crying evil, that there should exist a sentiment or a feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. I think that is a crime wherever it occurs, where husband and wife are in possession of health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity. I believe that where people undertake to curtail or prevent the birth of their children that they are going to reap disappointment by and by. I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe this is one of the greatest crimes of the world today, this evil practice.” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 278–79.)
On these matters, the First Presidency has recently said:
“We have given careful consideration to the question of proposed laws on abortion and sterilization. We are opposed to any modification, expansion, or liberalization of laws on these vital subjects.” (Letter to stake presidents in the state of Washington, October 27, 1970.)
The following are samples of the many other scriptures that materially relate to family stability:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6.)
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4.)
King Benjamin counseled parents not to “suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither … that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, …
“But … teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; … teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.)
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:25, 28.)
“… I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.
“But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation;
“You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.
“And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.” (D&C 93:40–43.)
Now, children’s obligation to parents:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
“Honour thy father and mother; …
“That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Eph. 6:1–3.)
And husbands and wives to each other:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Col. 3:18–19.)
Compliance with these scriptures will do much toward stabilizing families.
I desire to call attention to some of the scriptural instructions on one more subject, that of prayer. I can think of no subject of which the scriptures speak more frequently, nor can I think of any practice that will do more to promote family stability.
The first recorded communication between mortal man and God resulted from prayer. The record says that some time after they had been driven from the Garden, “Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, …
“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God. …” (Moses 5:4–5.)
From then until now, the scriptures have repeatedly admonished us to pray. The psalmist sang:
“As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me.
“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” (Ps. 55:16–17.)
From Amulek’s classic call to pray, recorded in the thirty-fourth chapter of Alma, I quote the following:
“Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
“But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:21, 26–27.)
Jesus prayed by himself, he prayed with his disciples, he prayed for them. He instructed them to pray and gave them a prayer pattern.
The Prophet’s first vision, which opened up this last dispensation, came in answer to prayer.
Two years before the Church was organized, the Lord gave this instruction: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:5.)
At the time the Church was organized the Lord told the priesthood to “visit the house of each member, and exhort them to … attend to all family duties.” The very first duty he specified was “to pray vocally and in secret.” (D&C 20:47.)
Yes, God has a plan for building family stability, and that plan is revealed in the scriptures. That the Lord will help all of us to implement that plan I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.