Strengthening the Family: A Solemn Responsibility to Love and Care


A continuing series giving insights for your study and use of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. … 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.” 1

Love and Unity

“I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley. “That involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes.” 2

“The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other,” taught President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994). “The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.” 3

Unity in marriage does not come automatically or without effort. Romantic love must mature into a commitment to seek and sustain spiritual harmony in marriage. “Achieving marital unity takes tremendous patience and persistence and a clear vision of what our priorities are in this life,” explains marriage counselor Victor B. Cline. “Spousal love is a wonderful gift, but we have to learn to give it fully in order to receive it in full measure.” 4

None Else

In 1831 the Lord declared, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). Of this commandment, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught: “The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.” 5 A husband or wife who places children, friends, careers, hobbies, or Church callings before the marital relationship is in direct violation of the commandment “none else.”

Satan is determined to drive wedges of discord between marriage partners. If he can convince one partner or the other that something else should take precedence over this central relationship of both time and eternity, he has won a battle in his war against the family and against God’s plan. We must therefore take special care to build, nurture, and deepen the marriage relationship.

A Balancing Act

Being a devoted marriage partner and a loving, dutiful parent is a delicate balancing act. Parents have a divine charge “to bring up [their] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). But that responsibility can become so time-consuming and emotionally demanding that at times, if mothers and fathers are not watchful, it can supersede or even impede the marriage relationship. To help marriage partners keep their familial priorities in order, President David O. McKay (1873–1970) and other Church leaders have quoted this wise counsel from Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame: “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” 6 Children who grow up in the reflected glow of a loving marriage enjoy a sense of security that is often absent when other concerns are allowed to eclipse that primary relationship. “Husbands and wives who love each other,” said President Benson, “will find that love and loyalty are reciprocated. This love will provide a nurturing atmosphere for the emotional growth of children.” 7

Children Need Love and Praise

“Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence,” taught President Benson. “They need empathy and understanding, not indifference, from mothers and fathers. They need the parents’ time. A mother’s kindly teachings and her love for and confidence in a teenage son or daughter can literally save them from a wicked world.” 8 “Praise your children more than you correct them,” he counseled. “Praise them for even their smallest achievement. … Encourage your children to come to you … with their problems and questions by listening to them every day.” 9

“My plea … is a plea to save the children,” President Hinckley has said. “Too many of them walk with pain and fear, in loneliness and despair. Children need sunlight. … They need kindness and refreshment and affection. Every home, regardless of the cost of the house, can provide an environment of love which will be an environment of salvation.” 10

Photography by Craig Dimond, posed by models

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

  2.   2.

    Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 325.

  3.   3.

    “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 60.

  4.   4.

    “Healing Wounds in Marriage,” Ensign, July 1993, 16.

  5.   5.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 311.

  6.   6.

    In “Quotable Quotes,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1963, 25; see also Gordon B. Hinckley, “Reach Out in Love and Kindness,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 77.

  7.   7.

    Ensign, Nov. 1982, 59.

  8.   8.

    The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (1988), 497.

  9.   9.

    “The Honored Place of Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 107.

  10.   10.

    “Save the Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 54.