Thursday, April 9, 2015

Answering Sister Oscarson's Call for Defenders of the Family Proclamation -- My thoughts on marriage and family in Conference

I've taken a year-long hiatus from blogging for many reasons. But while listening to Sister Oscarson's talk in the General Relief Society Meeting ("Defenders of the Family Proclamation" 2015). the spirit urged me to accept her challenge to defend the family. The thought came: you need to blog about these important principles (marriage, parenthood, and homemaking). Too often in the media the minority who choose infidelity and other impure practices is portrayed as the norm. Elder Perry taught, "Despite what much of media and entertainment outlets may suggest, however, and despite the very real decline in the marriage and family orientation of some, the solid majority of mankind still believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman. They believe in fidelity within marriage, and they believe in the marriage vows of 'in sickness and in health' and 'till death do us part.' (Elder Perry, "Why Marriage and Family Matter..."). 

As Elder Oaks warned in 2003 "Conspiring men and women, intent on gain rather than goodness, 'stir up the people' to 'all manner of … wickedness' (see Alma 11:20)...The new morality preached from the media’s pulpit is nothing more than the old immorality. It attacks religion. It undermines the family...The time has come when members of the Church need to speak out and join with the many other concerned people in opposition to the offensive, destructive, and mean-spirited media influence that is sweeping over the earth." (Let Our Voices Be Heard, Oct. 2003).

So let us stand with Sister Oscarson and answer her call to be a steadfast defender of the principle in the Proclamation. "The first [principle in need of defending] is marriage between a man and a woman. We are taught in the scriptures, 'Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:11). For anyone to attain the fulness of priesthood blessings, there must be a husband and a wife sealed in the house of the Lord, working together in righteousness and remaining faithful to their covenants. This is the Lord’s plan for His children, and no amount of public discourse or criticism will change what the Lord has declared. We need to continue to model righteous marriages, seek for that blessing in our lives, and have faith if it is slow in coming. Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views." ("Defenders of the Family Proclamation", General Relief Society Conference Apr 2015). 

I believe that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family, A Proclamation to the World). As I was listening to the beginning of the very first talk of Conference I was holding my crying baby; I heard a message that reminded me why we are in families: "When we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him." ("Is Not This the Fast that I have Chosen?" Elder Eyering Apr. 2015). At this time in my life the best way to receive spiritual direction isn't going to be me in a room by myself feeling the power of the spirit in quiet isolation (which I sometimes see as the "ideal") but it is serving my crying baby and meeting needs. These moments must be important to my spiritual growth and development in His plan as well. 

President Packer taught "The end of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity..." ("The Plan of Happiness," April 2015). 

President Packer taught that children are part of the Plan of Salvation:"In the beginning:“The Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.“'And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it' (Abraham 4:27–28)."And so the cycle of human life began on this earth as 'Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.“'And … the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide two and two in the land, … and they also begat sons and daughters' (Moses 5:2–3)."The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth has never been rescinded. It is essential to the plan of redemption and is the source of human happiness. Through the righteous exercise of this power, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy, even godhood. The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness..." (Packer, "The Plan of Happiness," Gen Conference April 2015). 
In the words of Dietrich Banhoffer: marriage is the “'link in the chain of the generations' both here and hereafter—the order of heaven." The “'office' of marriage, [is] the 'post of responsibility towards … mankind...' A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive...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." (Elder Christofferson, "Why Marriage, Why Family" Conference April 2015). "Married couples are tried by temptation, misunderstandings, financial problems, family crises, and illness, and all the while love grows stronger. Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds... (Packer, The Plan of Happiness, General Conference April 2015). 

God has laid out commandments with promises. We can know of a surety that if we follow the commandments He will also fulfill His. "See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love."  This "pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple are those procreative powers released in God’s eye for the full expression of love. It is to be shared solely and only with that one who is your companion forever."

I testify marriage between a man and a woman is the standard the Lord has set. "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 First Presidency, The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Is this too much to ask of us? Hugh Nibley was asked in an interview whether world conditions and our duty to spread the gospel made it desirable to seek some way to 'be accommodating of the world in what we do in the Church.' His reply: “That’s been the whole story of the Church, hasn’t it? You have to be willing to offend here, you have to be willing to take the risk. That’s where the faith comes in. … Our commitment is supposed to be a test, it’s supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to be impractical in the terms of this world" (The Parable of the Sower, Elder Oaks, Gen Conference Apr 2015). "As New York Times columnist David Brooks said: 'People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice—commitments to family, God, craft and country'" (Elder Perry, "Why Marriage and Family Matter," Gen Conf April 2015). President Packer teaches, "Love is nourished by the coming of children, who spring from that fountain of life entrusted to couples in marriage. ..“The spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15), and there are spiritual and physical laws to obey if we are to be happy. There are eternal laws, including laws relating to this power to give life, “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated” (D&C 130:20). These are spiritual laws which define the moral standard for mankind (see Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 7:14–15 [in the Bible appendix]; 2 Nephi 2:5;D&C 29:34; 134:6). There are covenants which bind, seal, and safeguard and give promise of eternal blessings."Temptations are ever present. Because the adversary cannot beget life, he is jealous toward all who have that supernal power. He and those who followed him were cast out and forfeited the right to a mortal body. 'He seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself' (2 Nephi 2:27)" ("The Plan of Happiness," Gen Conference April 2015). When we transgress the law of chastity, we experience guilt. It is important to teach my children the purpose of guilt. Elder Bednar taught "Guilt is to our spirit what pain is to our body—a warning of danger and a protection from additional damage. ("We Believe in Being Chaste" Ensign or Liahona April 2013). "Our spirits are damaged when we make mistakes and commit sins. But unlike the case of our mortal bodies, when the repentance process is complete, no scars remain because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The promise is: 'Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more' (D&C 58:42)" (Elder Packer, "The Plan of Happiness" Gen Conf April 2015).  From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt" ("We Believe in Being Chaste" Ensign or Liahona April 2013). "Nowhere is the generosity and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance" (Elder Packer, "The Plan of Happiness" Gen Conf April 2015). 

I testify that freedom from obligation is not where joy comes from, it comes from family life. The home is the school of life (Elder Falabella, "The Home: The School of Life," Gen Conference Apr 2013) and not only do our children need us, we are desperately in need of them because they call forth the best in us. In moments of selflessly serving them we learn to be more Christlike and to develop deeper love. This love is what furthers our development and helps us become more God-like. For this reason the family is central to the Creator's plan.