A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak in church on The Family: A Proclamation to the World and The Living Christ. I knew this would be a daunting task and I didn't have much time to prepare my talk. I prayed for the Holy Ghost to help guide me in what to say as well as to help those listening to hear the message they needed to hear. I felt that guidance as I gathered my thoughts - and the talk ended up going a completely different direction than I had thought it would. I knew that I did not want it to be a political talk and I hope that it doesn't come across that way. I also knew that I wanted to include those of different circumstances as part of the applicable audience. A number of people have asked for it and/or the references used and so I thought I would include it here for their sake - as well as for my boys.
These two documents are anchors in the stormy seas of life. The doctrines taught are so very important in the world in which we live. They are interconnected. An attack on the doctrine of one is an attack on the other.
Sister Beck – “Anti-Christ is antifamily. Any doctrine or principle [we] hear from the world that is antifamily is also anti-Christ. It’s that clear.”
As I prepared the talk, I was struck by strong voices of warning, direction and encouragement regarding the family in society.
1. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" states a warning itself. "Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." Adding to this, Elder Bruce D. Porter said “So vital is the family to the cycle of human life and the renewal of each generation that it is fair to say that if the family breaks down, everything breaks down. If families do not fulfill their divinely appointed purpose of carrying on the light of truth and the torch of civilization to the next generation, then we can throw any amount of money or ideas or programs at our world’s problems, and we will assuredly fail.”
2. Sister Oscarson - When President Gordon B. Hinckley first read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 20 years ago this year, we were grateful for and valued the clarity, simplicity, and truth of this revelatory document. Little did we realize then how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today’s world as the criteria by which we could judge each new wind of worldly dogma coming at us from the media, the Internet, scholars, TV and films, and even legislators. The proclamation on the family has become our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world, and I testify that the principles set forth within this statement are as true today as they were when they were given to us by a prophet of God nearly 20 years ago.
3. Sister Beck - “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was written to reinforce that the family is central to the Creator’s plan. Without the family, there is no plan; there is no reason for mortal life. We must be very clear on key points of doctrine, which we find in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This generation will be called upon to defend the doctrine of the family as never before. If they don’t know it, they can’t defend it. President Kimball said: “Many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us. …”
Think about the word "actively.” What can we do to believe actively in the family?
Last August, I had surgery on my knee and was laid up for quite a while. I kept myself occupied by doing indexing. There was a common occupation listed that stuck out to me - "Homemaker." I like to think about the etymology of words began thinking of it more as a "maker of the home" and what an important job that is. I discovered a quote from Sister Oscarson that went right along with what I had been thinking.
Sister Oscarson - We need to stand and defend the sanctity of the home. We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us—women, men, youth, and children, single or married—can work at being homemakers. We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.
When I first met Doug's parents, I was talking to Doug's dad about being a convert to the church. He said, that one of the things that really stuck out to him was the feelings he had as he entered his (future) in-laws house for the first time. He talked about how the Spirit filled their home in abundance due to the way that they lived their lives. He created a goal to have a similar feeling when people enter his home. He, (and my mother-in-law), have definitely succeeded in accomplishing that goal. Every time we enter their home, (and even their driveway), it feels like going to a spiritual refuge. It is a welcome place and a place to refuel. We strive to similarly invite the Spirit into our home. It is pertinent, for not only ourselves but also for our children, that we do this.
Sister Beck - Never at any time in the history of the world have we needed stronger families and stronger homes. It is out of those homes and families that the next generation comes. As each of us walks out of our own home every day, how strong is that home that we are leaving? Is it a bastion of strength and power for us?
We need to prioritize our families. How many other items do we have to prioritize? Soccer? Robotics? Church callings? Swimming? Meal Planning? School? Science Fair? Speech? It can be difficult to balance everything. With our current work schedules and church callings, we are able to average about 1 meal/day together throughout the week, (and some weeks only 4 meals per week). Some days we don't get to have any meals all together as a family. It is difficult and we have definitely been able to feel the added stress to not having that family time together on those days. President Uchtdorf gives us wise counsel to keep our priorities in line.
1. President Uchtdorf - “One example of great importance for humanity is strengthening our own families. The principle of family home evening was given to us in 1915. President McKay reminded parents again in 1964 that ‘no other success can compensate for failure in the home.’ In 1995 the prophets of our day called upon all the world to strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. . . . 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.”
2. Elder Holland - No one would wish a bad marriage on anyone. But where do we think “good marriages” come from? They don’t spring full-blown from the head of Zeus any more than does a good education, or good home teaching, or a good symphony. Why should a marriage require fewer tears and less toil and shabbier commitment than your job or your clothes or your car? Yet some of you will spend less time on the quality and substance and purpose of your marriage—the highest, holiest, culminating covenant you make in this world—than you will in maintaining your ’72 Datsun.
3. Sister Oscarson - We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our children know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine. We hope they will love learning, be educated, and talented. Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father? I would hope that as we encourage our children to reach for the very best in this life that we also teach them to honor and exalt the roles that mothers and fathers play in Heavenly Father’s plan.
Recently, I was talking to a good friend about what we were like at 19. She got married at 19 and I was nowhere near even thinking about getting married at 19. At the time, I figured my mid-20's would be a good time to start considering marriage. I needed to finish medical school first. I didn't have much interest in having children. A few years later, I received my Patriarchal blessing - I knew I was going to have children. (Yes, plural.) It still scared me a lot but the idea grew on me. Then, as a missionary, I met a family that had two little girls, Jasmine and Madeline. I loved these girls so much and they seemed to genuinely like me too. Playing with them made me realize that I really wanted to have kids. I wanted to feel that direct-from-heaven feeling that you can only have when a child hugs you and puts their head under your chin. I have a picture of Jasmine and Madeline with their mom hanging in my house and every time I see it, I think, "Yes...that's when I decided I wanted to have kids." I absolutely love being a mom. I didn't really think I would - that whole selfish, only child thing coming out. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done but the rewards are more than any other glory or honor I could receive. I definitely feel that I learn more than I teach as a parent.
I don't know if parenting comes naturally to anyone but it most definitely did not come naturally to me. I desperately require heavenly help in parenting. It is among the many motivators to live my life in such a way to have the Spirit with me. In a talk from Women's Conference in 2010 Sister Beck explains how to do this. I've heard her reiterate these concepts, (along with the shift-work example of parenting and how you can't be "on the clock" for all three shifts mentioned in this talk), numerous times and they always get me thinking, "I need to figure that out!"
Sister Beck – I asked myself what things must be taken care of, and if I don’t take care of them, the blessings of eternal life won’t be mine nor will they be my family’s. I wrote at the top of the list revelation. I have to be able to know the mind and will of God. Therefore, I have to do the things in my life that put me in a position to hear His voice… It takes personal revelation every day to help us prioritize and reprioritize and keep at bay the influences of the world that would draw us from what we are to do. I have taken a paper and pencil with me most of the time since then to my prayers. I don’t always receive an answer or instruction, but I am ready. I want to be ready to learn what the Lord would have me do in my day. Who needs my help? How can I increase my faith this day? How can I strengthen my family? What things do I need to correct in order to be worthy to receive His Spirit? He will tell me.
For our family, one of the more recent times that we needed some divine direction was when Doug was considering going back to school. We thought it seemed like a good idea but knew we would need heaven's help to get through the 4 year doctorate program. We decided to go to the temple and see if we received any answers. We met up in the Celestial Room to discuss any inspiration we felt. Doug felt good about the school decision. I had a bit of a different answer - I promised that the question I was thinking of was about him going to school but the answer that I received was that we should have a baby. We moved forward with both even though it wouldn't be easy. The Lion was born the day before Doug's Organic Chemistry final a little over 9 months later. I learned a few important lessons during this process.
First, I learned that the Lord loves us and will make sure we are okay. We had a number of obstacles over the last 3 years. (1 year left to go.) At first, Doug was trying to do some pre-requisite classes while still working full time which forced him into working a graveyard shift and then having class 20 miles away during the day and a toddler and newborn at home. As he started the doctorate program, he quit his job and I went back to work part-time. Working full-time has been tempting, in an attempt to decrease the financial stress, but it has never felt right or worked out the way we would need it to in regards to scheduling. I have changed jobs a few times during the years - some would say too many times - but each time, we have felt directed to do so. We have been guided and directed in each of these decisions and comforted when "our plan" didn't align with His plan. This was one of my favorite moments to look back on and remember that we have someone looking out for us. I cherish that moment of receiving the answer of, "Anne, I love you and I believe in you. I know you are frustrated and it doesn't seem to make sense to you that the change did not occur. Please know that there is a reason. I need you to remain in your current situation - not for you but for those around you. You can be a force for good in their lives. Will you please sacrifice your plan a bit longer so that I can use you for that purpose?..." Revelation has been received, doors have been opened, obstacles have been overcome, financial struggles have miraculously worked themselves out. We have learned much of how much the Lord loves us and wants our family to succeed in every conceivable way.
The second greatest thing that I have learned through this experience is just how amazing my husband is. Remember all those talks and quotes above that talk about prioritizing family? Yes, he does all of those things. And, all the things on this list? Yep, he does all of those things too. He sacrifices so much in order to make sure the boys know they are his priority. He will spend the afternoon and evening playing with them, and then make up the study time by staying up way past midnight, only to get up early and help get breakfast and lunches made. I would not have made it through these 3 years without his help and his dedication to us.
At the Vatican Summit on Marriage, President Eyring gave us some hope that happy marriages and families are attainable if we stick to it.
President Eyring - [The doctrines and counsel in the Family Proclamation are] things people must do for us to have a renaissance of happy marriages and productive families...Such a renaissance will require people to try for the ideal—and to keep trying even when the happy result is slow to come and when loud voices mock the effort. As we work to build and encourage faithful, loving marriages in which men and women become as one and nurture their families, the Lord will multiply your efforts. As we join together in this work, I promise progress toward that happy result.
A promise like that can definitely give you a boost during those, "Is it worth it?" moments.
When the early saints were asked to do the (seemingly) impossible in building the Salt Lake Temple, Elder Holland explained what all was required...and why it was required. While reading this quote think of the idea of creating a stable, successful and happy family. It can be a daunting task, but is there any greater work to be done?
Elder Holland – Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Most assuredly you are. As long and laborious as the effort may seem, please keep shaping and setting the stones that will make your accomplishment “a grand and imposing spectacle.” Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow. Dream dreams and see visions. Work toward their realization. Wait patiently when you have no other choice. Lean on your sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again. Perhaps you will not see the full meaning of your effort in your own lifetime. But your children will, or your children’s children will.
I am grateful for all of the examples I have in my life of those that prioritize the family. I am grateful for the many testimonies and talks on the topic that can direct, encourage and support us in our efforts. I know that there is a reason that this topic is mentioned again and again and again. With the instability in the world and society, (as further evidenced by recent events this week), it is pertinent that we are able to provide a stable foundation for our families - no matter what stage of life you are in. I know that we will be blessed and guided in our efforts.