Building an Eternal Marriage and Family by Following the Counsel of the Living Prophets
Elder C. Scott Grow
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
January 29, 2002
Thank you for that introduction. It is a pleasure to be here at one of the greatest educational institutions in the entire world. Why do I call it that? First, because of the faculty who put students ahead of any other academic or professional considerations. Second, because of the students, you, who put the Church and kingdom of God first in your lives.
Before I begin my message to you this afternoon, I want to respond briefly to the request made by President Bednar. He asked that I share with you some thoughts regarding the First Presidency's formation of the new Idaho Area.
I first heard about this last March, just before April conference. I was at work when my secretary (who, incidentally, is not a member of the Church) buzzed me on the intercom and said, "Boyd K. Packer is on the line for you." I said, "I'll take it." And I did. President Packer said something like this: "Scott, we would like to make a change in your assignment. Effective August 15th the North America Northwest Area will be divided, and a new Idaho Area will be created. It will cover the boundaries of the Idaho Pocatello and Boise Missions and will include about 100 stakes. We are calling a new Area Presidency, composed entirely of Area Authority Seventies. We would like you to serve as the Area president."
He then went on to tell me who my two counselors would be, Elders D. Rex Gerratt and Ronald L. Loveland. He explained that we would continue our full-time employment while we carried out the Area Presidency assignment on a Church-service basis, just like bishops and stake presidents do.
It has been a wonderful experience for us. We are thoroughly impressed with the caliber of leadership of the Church in the Idaho Area and the faithfulness of the members in the area.
The stake presidencies of the six BYU-Idaho stakes are exemplary of that leadership. You students are outstanding examples of faithful Latter-day Saints. It is an honor for me to be here with all of you today.
As I pondered what I should say here this afternoon, a flood of ideas passed through my mind. I have prayed fervently to know what the Lord would have me say to you. I now pray that, as you listen to my words, you will feel His spirit in your hearts and that impressions will come into your minds that will bless you in this critical time in your lives.
You stand at a critical crossroad in your life. The choices you have recently made and will make in the next few years will determine how that future will really be.
As much as the world might lead you to believe, you are NOT like other college kids. You are the children of the promise, the Lord's covenant people, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
As a Latter-day Saint, you are not left in the dark. You have apostles and prophets who give spiritual direction that will help you overcome the world. You have the gift of the Holy Ghost to give you individualized guidance in your personal life.
You are under covenant. All of you have entered into the baptismal covenant. You young men have taken upon you the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Thousands of you have been endowed from on high in God's holy temple, and hundreds of you have entered into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage with the attendant promises of future "thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths" (D&C 132:19).
I decided that the most important subject I could discuss today is how to establish and maintain an eternal family by following the counsel of the prophets.
On April 6, 1830, the day the Church was organized, the Lord gave a revelation to that handful of Saints which applies to all of us today. In the first verse of D&C 21, he spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith saying, "Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . ." Then the Lord spoke to us as members of His Church saying, "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word [Whose word? The prophet's word.] ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith" (D&C 21:4-5).
Consider those two descriptive words, patience and faith. Prophets don't teach things that are popular. We may not understand why the prophets would ask us to do certain things (or not do things); for example, cautioning you to choose carefully the music to which you listen; to avoid pornography; or to not dress immodestly. These may appear to be insignificant things. But I promise you that as you exercise faith in their words by following their counsel, there will come a day when you will know that what they have spoken was for your protection and blessing. With the passage of time, and with patience, you will know that they have literally spoken the word of God.
In the next verse the Lord gives us a promise, "For by doing these things [What things? Receiving the prophet's words as if from the mouth of God himself.] the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory."
In these days of ever-present, all-pervasive temptations, doesn't it give you comfort to know that as you follow the prophet's counsel, that God promises you that hell itself shall not prevail against you, that God will disperse the powers of the adversary from before you, and that the very powers of heaven will be moved for your good and His glory?
Now, understanding the Lord's counsel and the blessings promised when we follow the teachings of the prophets, I want to address five specific teachings regarding MARRIAGE AND FAMILY that have been taught repeatedly by prophets of our day. Like most teachings from prophets, these teachings are not popular with the world.
The FIRST is the counsel that we should not postpone marriage; SECOND, that we should not postpone having children, nor should we limit the number of our children; THIRD, the encouragement that mothers not seek employment outside the home; FOURTH, giving spiritual leadership in your home and family; and FIFTH, staying true and faithful to your covenants.Just a few decades ago, many of these principles were widely accepted by the world at large. However, with the passage of time, now, not just the world but even some Latter-day Saints question the relevance of these teachings. As we discuss these issues, think of the promises that the Lord has made to us when we follow the counsel of the prophets.
FIRST, regarding the counsel to NOT POSTPONE MARRIAGE, President Ezra Taft Benson stated:
God has a timetable--a sequence or season for good things. A mission, when its time has arrived, takes priority over marriage and education. And when one is mature enough and has found the right companion, marriage should not be delayed for education. While all three--mission, marriage, and education--are essential, there is a proper order to follow (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 192).
This concern regarding postponement of marriage is also addressed in the Church Handbook of Instructions, which is issued under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Under the heading "Single Members in the Church," it states:
Temple marriage--the sealing of husband and wife for time and eternity by the authority of the priesthood--is a sacred privilege and obligation that every able member of the Church should have as a goal. The Church strongly counsels members, especially men, not to put off or avoid marriage (emphasis added).
The SECOND topic, regarding POSTPONEMENT OF CHILDREN AND LIMITING THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN, was addressed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the Proclamation on the Family. It states:
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.
Have you ever thought about what the world would be like today if Adam and Eve had decided that two children were enough and then all of their descendants decided the same thing? If they had done so, they would have failed to keep God's commandment to REPLENISH the earth and God's great plan of happiness would have been seriously affected.
President Benson addressed this topic in a Churchwide satellite broadcast to parents. He said:
Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in Heaven.
Do not use the reasoning of the world such as, 'We'll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better-paying job, until we have a larger home, until we've obtained a few of the material conveniences,' and on and on.
This is the reasoning of the world, and it is not pleasing in the sight of God. Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing of children.
DO NOT CURTAIL THE NUMBER of your children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity. In the eternal perspective, children--not possessions, not position, not prestige--are our greatest jewels. (Address given at a Fireside for Parents by President Ezra Taft Benson, 22 February 1987).
President Gordon B. Hinckley also addressed this topic. Speaking to university students, President Hinckley said:
You people who are starting out life together, you people who are working so hard to try to keep up with everything, you people who have too much to do and too little money, you people who are struggling to get an education . . . be faithful in the Church, begin your families and go forward with your lives (emphasis added) (Church News, week ending November 9, 1996).
The THIRD topic, regarding marriage and family, is that of mothers not working out of the home. In "The Family, a Proclamation to the World," issued by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, it states:
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 (emphasis added).
Regarding this subject, President Ezra Taft Benson made the following observations:One apparent impact of the women's movement has been the feelings of discontent it has created among young women who have chosen the role of wife and mother. They are often made to feel that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than housework, diaper changing, and children calling for mother. This view loses sight of the eternal perspective that God elected women to the noble role of mother and that exaltation is eternal fatherhood and eternal motherhood (emphasis added) (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, page 548).
In October 1996 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke extensively on this subject. He said:
Some years ago President Benson delivered a message to the women of the Church. He encouraged them to leave their employment and give their individual time to their children. I sustain the position which he took.
Nevertheless, I recognize, as he recognized, that there are some women (it has become very many, in fact) who have to work to provide for the needs of their families. To you I say, do the very best you can. I hope that if you are employed full-time you are doing it to ensure that basic needs are met and not simply to indulge a taste for an elaborate home, fancy cars, and other luxuries. The greatest job that any mother will ever do will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. None other can adequately take her place.
It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee. I know how some of you struggle with decisions concerning this matter . . . .
To the mothers of this Church . . . I want to say that as the years pass, you will become increasingly grateful for that which you did in molding the lives of your children in the direction of righteousness and goodness, integrity and faith. That is most likely to happen if you can spend adequate time with them.
As you listen to those teachings by modern prophets, is it possible that a course correction might be needed in your own life or in the attitudes that you have about these subjects. It is so easy, even for Latter-day Saints, to buy into the popular philosophies of the day.
How grateful I am for my mother who was always there when I was growing up. How grateful I am for a wife who chose as her full-time career the role of wife and mother.
The FOURTH principle that I want to discuss with you is that of GIVING SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP IN YOUR OWN HOME. Now, I recognize that most of you are single. But based on our earlier discussion, we know that you will take care of that in the appropriate time.
The world talks a lot about men being "macho." My wife has always taught our children that the real macho man is not the guy with all of the muscles, but it is the man who provides a good living for his family and gives spiritual leadership in the home.
Young men, after you are married it is your responsibility to call the family together for family prayer, family home evening, and daily family scripture study. The Lord will hold you accountable for whether or not these things are happening in your home.
In 1999 the First Presidency issued two letters regarding these subjects to the members of the Church throughout the world. In the February letter they state, "We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church." They go on to say, "We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. 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" (emphasis added).
What does it mean to give your "best efforts" or to give "highest priority?" I am confident that each day you do the things that you want to do, even though these may not be things that you know you should do. As we talk about those things that really matter in your life, somehow you have got to put the spiritual leadership in your own home at the top of the list. Thus say the prophets of God.
In October 1999 the First Presidency issued a letter entitled "Monday Night Activities." This letter states:
Monday nights are reserved throughout the Church for family home evenings. We encourage members to set aside this time to strengthen family ties and teach the gospel in their homes (emphasis added).
Somehow, a tradition has developed in the Church. In fact, you may have heard members say, "We hold our family home evenings on Sunday, and on Monday nights we have activities." Note that the First Presidency letter says that Monday Night is the time for family home evenings. Also note that Monday night is not for activities, but as they counsel, "to teach the gospel in their homes."
My young brothers and sisters, I hope that you can have vision to see what the prophets are seeing as they give us this counsel. Satan is targeting our homes and families. The day has passed when we can be casual in holding family home evening, daily family scripture study, or family prayer and still have real hope to hold our children close to the family and close to the Church.
The Prophet Joseph F. Smith stated:
Oh [parents] salvation, mercy, life everlasting begin at home. What profiteth it a man, though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? What would it profit me, though I should go out into the world and win strangers to the fold of God and lose my own children? Oh! God, let me not lose my own. I cannot afford to lose mine, whom God has given to me and whom I am responsible for before the Lord, and who are dependent upon me for guidance, for instruction, for proper influence. Father, do not permit me to lose interest in my own in trying to save others.
The prayer of that prophet should resonate with the feelings of our own souls as we give spiritual leadership in our own homes.
Now I come to the FIFTH and last principle, that of BEING TRUE TO YOUR COVENANTS. Last week I received a phone call from a sweet young Latter-day Saint wife and mother. She was distraught. Her husband had just informed her that for the past several months he has been unfaithful to her.
As I was finishing this talk last Friday, she called again. She said that he had just told her that he was going to divorce her, also leaving behind his young son and daughter.
She was devastated. How could this be happening to her? She had been so careful in her selection of a husband. He had been a faithful Latter-day Saint. He had been an outstanding missionary. They were sealed in the temple. She had been faithful to her covenants. What went wrong?
As I listened to this young woman, I was heartsick. I felt so sorry for her. I felt even more sorry for him. This young man had been one of my missionaries when I served as mission president. I loved him as my own son. I took great joy in his successes. Now I feel overwhelming sorrow at his failure.
How could he throw away everything that he had believed in and lived for his entire life? I wept because of the tragedy of it all. I feel distraught and sick at heart as I think of it now.
How could this happen? We must first understand that there is opposition in all things and that God has given us our agency. God promises us eternal happiness as we keep the covenants that we have made with him. In contrast, Satan desires that "all men might be miserable like unto himself." Satan hates you and will do everything within his power to destroy you. Your safety lies in following the counsel of the prophets and in keeping your covenants.
When a young couple kneels across the alter in the sealing room, first and foremost, they enter into a covenant with God; and, secondarily, they enter into a covenant with each other. As you are sealed for time and all eternity, Heavenly Father promises you exaltation and eternal life if you live faithful to your covenants.
Inherent in that temple sealing is the covenant that you will be faithful to your spouse, both mentally and physically. Regarding the sin of adultery, President Hinckley has said the following:
Was there ever adultery without dishonesty? . . . It is personal dishonesty of the worst kind, for it becomes a betrayal of the most sacred of human relationships and a denial of covenants and promises entered into before God and man. It is the sordid violation of a trust. It is a selfish casting aside of the law of God, and like other forms of dishonesty its fruits are sorrow, bitterness, heartbroken companions, and betrayed children (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley).
Immoral thoughts precede immoral actions. The Lord has said:
He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out (D&C 46:23).
When we lust, we put our souls in jeopardy. When we lust, the Spirit of the Lord withdraws, and we are left alone. Without the Spirit, we revert to the tendencies of the natural man, who King Benjamin informed us, is an enemy to God.
When we are so tempted, we must repent and "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 3:19). If we don't, then we are in danger of being overcome by Satan and losing all of the blessings that the Lord has given to us. This is what has happened to my former missionary.
The prophet Alma gave us counsel to help us avoid such sins. He said that we must "watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit" (Alma 13:28).
Another safeguard to help you be faithful in keeping your covenants is daily study of the scriptures. In the tree of life vision, the prophets Lehi and Nephi saw that the only people who partook of the tree of life were those who pressed their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, or the word of God.
Each of us must resolve within our very souls that we will be true to the covenants that we have made with God. Regarding this, Brigham Young said:
Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable (Journal history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 28 Sept 1846, 5).
Nephi said it this way when responding to his brothers who were ready to give up after failing to obtain the plates of Laban. He said to them,
As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord (1 Nephi 3:15-16).
Joshua stood firm in his resolve to be true to the Lord and challenged others to do the same, when he said:
Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
May you resolve once again, here and now, that you will be true to the covenants you have made and will make with God regarding yourself and your future families. May you follow the counsel of the living prophets, study the scriptures daily, and be sensitive to the prompting and impressions that come from the Holy Ghost.
In conclusion, let me share with you my personal testimony as one ordained as a witness for Jesus Christ. I testify that this is the Church and Kingdom of God here upon the earth. I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that all of his successors including Gordon B. Hinckley are prophets, seers, and revelators.
I bear you my witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He has purchased us through His atoning sacrifice. He was crucified, died, and was resurrected from the dead. He lives today. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father, pleading for our souls, saying:
Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed . . . . Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life (D&C 45:4-5).
I pray that you and I, with our families, will live worthy of that divine intervention in our behalf by the Son of God himself. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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