Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why Have a Family?

Many in our day and age may wonder what the benefits of getting married and having children are. Some are choosing to never get married, preferring the non-commitment and freedom of the single life. Others choose to get married, but willingly decide not to have children. I would like to give five reasons and benefits of being married and having children that I have learned through my own experiences.

1. God's plan is all about families.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the Family is Ordained of God. It is no wonder that the second message missionaries are asked to share with the message of the Restoration is all about families:
The Gospel Blesses Families
The restored gospel blesses and helps husbands and wives, parents and children as they strive to develop stronger relationships and spiritual strength in their families. These blessings are available now and in eternity. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides help with current concerns and challenges.
Because families are ordained of God, they are the most important social unit in time and in eternity. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life. The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A home established on gospel principles will be a place of refuge and safety. It will be a place where the Spirit of the Lord can abide, blessing family members with peace, joy, and happiness. Through prophets in every age, including our own, God has revealed His plan of happiness for individuals and families. (Preach My Gospel)
God intended us to be in families. He wants us to grow up in a home with a mother and father who love and support each other, and who will love and teach their children. He wants us to grow up and eventually meet someone of the opposite gender to join together in marriage, and start our own family. In fact, since we are all children of God, His whole plan is for His family to grow and progress, so that we can one day enjoy all of the blessings He enjoys. Families are not just something we experience here in mortality; families are eternal. Families are a part of our pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal lives. If I could sum up the purpose of life, and God's plan for us, His children, in one word, it would be "FAMILY."

2. We are not meant to be alone.
There is a reason why we are drawn to other people. We want to be a part of something. It was never intended that we be alone. There is a reason that we do not just "pop" out of nowhere into this mortal life. When we come to earth, it is through the miracle of birth, into a family (and sometimes through adoption). This family is meant to help us learn and grow. Then, when we are older, we continue to learn and grow in our own marriage and family. Our innate desire to be loved and to give love leads us to bond and unite together with family. Again, one of the biggest purposes of life is to be a part of one big, united family.

3. Seeing the world through your child's eyes.
Some may wonder what the benefits of having children are. They are very difficult to teach at times, they require thousands of hours of attention, they cost millions of dollars to raise, and they can make other endeavors in life (career, travel, ambitions) rather difficult. I understand why many couples choose not to have children. But there are things that those couples will never experience. One of which is seeing the world anew through the eyes of your children. Children look at the world with such pure hearts and wonder-filled eyes. Everything they see and experience is new, and exciting. Their curiosity and love of learning is contagious, and causes you, their parent, to look at the world afresh. You begin to see the beauty of the world around you, the majesty of the flight of a butterfly, and the awe-inspiring change of the seasons in ways that you have forgotten as you have grown up and become concerned with other aspects of your life. A child's excitement and exuberance for life fills you again with your own excitement and exuberance. It is no wonder that the following moment in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is recorded in the scriptures:
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (Matthew 18:2-5)
Having children is one way to remind ourselves how to become like little children, to see all that our Heavenly Father has done for us, and the wonder and beauty of the world around us. Having children helps us remember how to be humble and teachable.

4. Learning Christlike attributes.
As we become humble, we begin to see the things we can learn from our marriage and from our children. One extremely important lesson we learn is how to gain and develop Christlike attributes. As we learn to serve our spouse and our children, we forget about ourselves and our selfishness, and begin to be selfless. As we run into issues and problems, we rely on our Faith in Jesus Christ, and turn to Him for help and strength to work through them. We pray to our Father in Heaven for help, and through our faith, we are able to find solutions and become stronger as a family. We are filled with hope as we look to the future, excited for the blessings of an eternal marriage and an eternal family. We are filled with charity, Christlike love, as we work together to create a home filled with the Spirit of God. We strive for virtue as we endeavor to keep the commitments and covenants we make with our spouses and children. We gain knowledge about God, our Eternal Father, and the purpose of life, as we take a small step in His shoes by trying to love and teach our children, just as He would have us do. Most of all, we learn patience and diligence, with ourselves, our spouse, and our children, as we seek to forgive each other for the mistakes we make, and as we strive to become better.

5. The Joy of Families.
On top of the incredible learning curve that comes with marriage and children, there is no joy that can quite measure up to the joy that comes from being eternally united with your spouse, and the joy that you experience with your children. The joy that comes from the love shared between husband and wife. The joy that comes from spending time with your family playing, learning, growing, sharing, and experiencing the world. The joy that comes from helping your children become the best that they can be. The joy that comes from seeing the smile on your spouse's face as you surprise them with a gift. The joy that comes from hearing the pure, heartfelt laughter of your child. The joy that comes from comforting your little ones when they are hurt or scared, and knowing that you mean the world to them. NOTHING can compare with the joy of families.

So, for those of you out there trying to decide if having a family is worth it, I wholeheartedly declare that it is! It is a LOT of hard work, a huge time commitment, and many tears will be shed. But striving to have the best family that you can is the way to feel the most accomplished and fulfilled in this life.

Feel free to share the blessings you have received from your families in the comments below!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Importance of Motherhood

The world has lost sight of the profound importance and essential influence of mothers. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve eloquently pointed this out in the October 2013 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here.

It truly is sad how motherhood and homemaking have become a lesser endeavor in the eyes of the world. A mother's influence and impact on her children will effect them for eternity. Some may say mothers do not have much influence on their children, that they have their own agency and will choose what they want. It is true that children do have their own agency, but someone has to teach them what is right from wrong; someone has to guide them and love them, and show them the good in the world; someone has to believe in them and teach them their divine nature and potential; and the best person for that job, and the divinely appointed person at that, is the Mother. “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” (President David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, [1953], 452.)

Now, this does not mean that having ambitions and desires outside of the home are bad. On the contrary, we value the contributions of women and men in their endeavors to help better the world through their work and careers. We also understand that there are circumstances where necessity causes the mother of a family to be the main provider for their family. However, we must recognize that our families are the most important part of our lives. “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” (President David O. McKay, Quoted from J. E. McCullough, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116.) I believe one of the most important questions to ask ourselves, and one I ask myself frequently, is the following: "Is this decision the best for my family? Not just for me, and the desires and ambitions I have (which are still important), but, most importantly, will this be good for my family as well?"

Elder Christofferson gave an additional concern about the trends of the world with regard to women and mothers:

[Another] area of concern comes from those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. Often this takes the form of pushing women to adopt more masculine traits—be more aggressive, tough, and confrontational. It is now common in movies and video games to see women in terribly violent roles, leaving dead bodies and mayhem in their wake. It is soul-numbing to see men in such roles and certainly no less so when women are the ones perpetrating and suffering the violence.

While "the name of equality" has led to reform and change that have made our world a much better place, and the underlying goals of striving for equality are noble, the world has begun to use the word "equality" to mean "EXACTLY alike." The problem with this definition is that there are some things that we cannot be "EXACTLY alike," one of which is gender. There are fundamental differences (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) between men and women, that make it so we are NOT, and never can be, exactly alike. And that is a GOOD thing! The differences between men and women, through a marriage, are meant to complement each other so that we can become together what we could not on our own. Elder Christofferson continues:

Former Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld taught: “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” In blurring feminine and masculine differences, we lose the distinct, complementary gifts of women and men that together produce a greater whole.

One recent place where this blurring of feminine and masculine differences has been prevalent is the Ordain Women movement. The leaders of Ordain Women, "in the name of equality," argue that women should be given the priesthood so that men and women can be equal in the church. They argue that the blessings and opportunities available to men through the priesthood, such as giving blessings, being in the leadership of the church, and performing ordinances, should also be given to women.

As a man, I have had the opportunity to give blessings, perform ordinances, and participate in the leadership of the church. And I will agree, these opportunities to serve are a blessing. However, as a man, I will never have the opportunity AND BLESSING of building a body for a child and giving birth. I will never have the opportunity to be a Mother. Does this mean that I am unequal with my wife? No. The fact is that we are equal in the importance of our responsibilities.

“I think we all know that the blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out upon our wives and daughters and upon all the faithful women of the Church. These good sisters can prepare themselves, by keeping the commandments and by serving in the Church, for the blessings of the house of the Lord. The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons, for neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord [see 1 Corinthians 11:11].” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 59.)

The sad reality is, in our day and in the world we live in, the divine importance of women, and especially mothers, has become distorted and destroyed. Women are being led to believe that the work they are doing with their families and in their homes is much less important than what others are doing in the world, and what men are doing in the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, consistently teaches that the most important work to be done on this earth and in this life is within the walls of our own homes, with our families. The whole purpose of the Church is to help our families to become better, and to strive for the blessings of an eternal family. The Mother, the creator of bodies, bearer of children, nurturer of the family, is a KEY part of this purpose of life. God be thanked for the divinely appointed role of Mothers.

(Written with help from my wonderful wife Jenny :-) )

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Prophetic Warning: The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Recent events (The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the gay marriage ban in Utah; Ordain Women founder being excommunicated; Parents choosing to let their girl become a boy) make me feel that we really are in tumultuous times. Seeing all of these events unfold really brings to light the relevance of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles urging leaders to teach the doctrines contained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World back in January.

The doctrines contained in The Proclamation give us insight and direction as we move through the difficult days ahead of us. In this post, I hope to be able to point out the doctrines contained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. (Quotes from the Proclamation are in blue)

WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

While civil laws may change and gay marriage may become legal, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made it clear that marriage is ONLY meant to be between a man an woman, and that this marital unit is the basis for the family, which is central and crucial to God's plan for his children. 

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

We are all children of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. We all have a divine nature and destiny. As such, we should all treat each other with love and respect, no matter what our differences may be. I hope I can be an example of this love, a Christlike love, throughout my life. However, this does not mean I will ever back down from my beliefs, my convictions, and my knowledge of the truthfulness of this church and it's doctrines, just as Christ never condoned sin, always proclaiming truth and doctrine.

Another important point in this paragraph is the statement on gender. Gender is ESSENTIAL to our eternal identity and purpose. Gender is not something we can change on a whim. We were made male or female, in the image of our Heavenly Parents, for premortal, mortal, and eternal purposes. There is a reason I am a male. There is a reason my wife is a female. Although we may not understand all of the reasons why we are the genders that we are, I firmly believe that God made us the gender we are for a purpose.

IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

We accepted Heavenly Father's plan before we came to this life. We knew there would be tests and trials, but we were excited for the opportunity to come to earth in order to gain experience, learn, and grow toward perfection, and become heirs of eternal life, or God's life.

Even more wonderfully, God's plan makes it possible for us, through the ordinances of the temple, to return to His presence, and live with our families for all eternity. The wonderful relationships we have with our families, the love between husband and wife, father and child, mother and child, brother and sister, and all other familial relationships can continue on forever! What a glorious opportunity we have to receive these blessings.

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

One of the most wonderful opportunities we have in this life is the blessing of marriage, and the ability we have to participate with our procreative powers. Because there are powerful feelings attached with these actions that are meant to bond a husband and wife physically and emotionally, as well as bring children into this world, these sacred powers are only to be employed between a husband and wife, the essential building blocks of the family.

WE DECLARE the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

Life is sacred. Murder and abuse are strictly forbidden by God. God's Law of Chastity, which states that sexual relations should only be between a husband and wife, is one of the most important commandments to follow, as it is the way that we can participate in the creation of new life.

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Husbands and wives should love each other, care for each other, and strive to always support one another. A marriage is an equal partnership that requires communication, understanding, work, and lots of love in order to make it work. But as a couple strive to love and serve each other, the marriage relationship can be one of the most rewarding and beautiful eternal relationships possible.

Another of the most rewarding eternal relationships possible is that of a parent with their children. Children truly are a blessing from the Lord. As a mother and father work together to love, teach, provide for, and serve their children, they get a taste of the joy that is only possible through families.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God.

Do we really understand the weight of this statement? The family, specifically a mother and father working together to raise their children in righteousness, is the way God has intended us to live in this life.

Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. 

Marriage is meant to be between a man and woman. Period. It is through this union of a male and female that families are created, and God's purposes for this earth life are put into effect.

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.

Children are entitled to growing up in a home where there is a mother and father who love each other, and are willing to sacrifice and support their family in order to create a love-filled home where children can learn and grow. As the proclamation said earlier, parents will be held accountable before God for the care and support of their children. While people do make poor decisions in this life, and their are broken homes and families rampant around us, God intended us to be put in families where we could learn to love, forgive, learn, and grow to our greatest eternal potential. Our families are our greatest responsibility in this life.

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

As has been said in General Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Worldwide Leadership Training meetings, everything that is done in the church is meant to support families. We are a family centered church. The principles of the gospel, and the doctrines and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, are first and foremost to help us have happiness and joy in our families. If you want a successful marriage and a happy family, then you need to have faith and teach your children to have faith; you need to have regular family prayers and teach your children to pray; you need to constantly repent and become better, and teach your children how to repent; you need to be able to forgive one another, and teach your children to forgive; you have to treat each other with love, respect, and compassion; you need to help your children see the value of hard work by working together in the home; and you need to spend time having fun together. The family is the place where we can best work on becoming more Christlike each and every day.

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

Mothers and fathers are to help each other as EQUAL partners. Even though we might have different responsibilities (e.g. the priesthood holding father presides in the home, the mother nurtures and cares for their children) the IMPORTANCE of those responsibilities are equal. Thus, by divine design, mothers and fathers are given separate, but EQUALLY IMPORTANT responsibilities within the home, and they are meant to help each other in fulfilling those responsibilities.

WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.

Families our are greatest responsibility. We are obligated to work as hard as possible to love and serve the members of our family, and do our very best to make our family relationships the best that they can be.

Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

Here is the prophetic warning, and this is where the world is heading. Families are disintegrating all around us. Divorce rates continue to climb. Traditional families and traditional family roles are becoming "old-fashioned" and those who support traditional marriage and traditional family roles are looked at as bigoted and hateful. Calamities of the Last Days foretold in the scriptures will begin to happen as families disintegrate.

WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

This post has been my attempt at promoting my desire to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. I hope the words herein will be a help to others, and I welcome civil and respectful discussion in comments below.

Families are sacred, and I hope to be an example of the happiness and joy that can develop within a righteous family.