The American Home
“We believe marriage was ordained by God for a wise eternal purpose. The family is the basis for the righteous life. Divinely prescribed roles to father, mother, and children were given from the very beginning.”
The home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. The church, the school, and even the nation stand helpless before a weak and degraded home. No nation will rise above its homes, and no nation will long endure when the family unit is weakened or destroyed. If we accept the truth of these statements, then we must conclude that the American family has serious problems.
All is not well with this most basic institution, the American home. In fact, it is in grave danger, if not in deadly peril. There is convincing evidence that a creeping rot of moral disintegration is eating into the very vitals of this temple of American civilization. It gives cause for serious concern.
The facts are not reassuring as we soberly appraise them. Far-reaching changes, resulting from industrialization, concentration of populations, commercialization of recreation, and other activities once performed in the home, all tend to lead away from home associations.
Accompanying these changes, and in some measure resulting from them, has been a marked increase in pleasure seeking; the mad rush for money and other material things; the unwarranted indulgence of personal gratifications; the insidious inroads of tobacco, liquor, gambling, and many other tendencies in our complex modern civilization. All these have exerted a pulling power away from the home and have weakened its structure.
There seems to be a tendency for many married people to become soft and to seek a life filled with ease and the pleasure of the moment. They invite the pleasure of conjugality but often refuse to shoulder the responsibility of parenthood.
Divorce today is epidemic. The father’s place at the head of the home is being challenged, and mothers have, in many instances, left the hearth to join the work force, which weakens the stability of the home. Children, growing up without strong parental guidance and spiritual influence, are allowed to roam freely. Not only does this permissiveness and lack of training sponsor indolence, but many of these youth, out of boredom, have turned to drinking, drugs, delinquency, or crime.
One great Church leader has wisely said, “No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” (President David O. McKay.) If this nation is to endure, then the home must be safeguarded, strengthened, and restored to its rightful importance. The home is the bulwark of the nation—our most fundamental and basic institution.
Marriage, the home, and family are more than mere social institutions. They are divine, not man-made. God ordained marriage from the very beginning. In the record of that first marriage recorded in Genesis, the Lord makes four significant pronouncements: first, that it is not good for man to be alone; second, that woman was created to be a help meet for man; third, that they twain should be one flesh; and fourth, that man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. (Genesis 2:18, 24.)
Later, as though to reinforce the earlier statement, the Lord said: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6.) He also said, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22.)
This first marriage, instituted by God, was between two immortal beings. Marriage was thus intended to be eternal. Following the consummation of this marriage, God gave Adam and Eve important instruction about the perpetuation of the family, instruction that has never been rescinded: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 1:28.)
The scriptures teach that man was created in the image and likeness of his Creator. (Genesis 1:26–27.) Fundamental to the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the belief that the purpose of man’s whole existence is to grow into the likeness and image of God. We accept quite literally the Savior’s mandate: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48.)
We believe God to be the personal Heavenly Father to all mankind, that all mortal beings are literally His spirit offspring. We worship God as a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful being, endowed with all the attributes of perfection. As God’s literal offspring, we believe man to be His only creation blessed with His image and His likeness. Our children sing a song from the time they learn to talk that impresses upon them their celestial as well as mortal heritage:
I am a child of God, And he has sent me here, Has given me an earthly home With parents kind and dear.
I am a child of God, And so my needs are great; Help me to understand his words Before it grows too late.
I am a child of God,Rich blessings are in store;If I but learn to do his will,I’ll live with him once more.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,Help me find the way.Teach me all that I must do To live with him someday. (—Sing with Me, no. B-76)
Yes, we believe marriage was ordained by God for a wise eternal purpose. The family is the basis for the righteous life. Divinely prescribed roles to father, mother, and children were given from the very beginning. God established that fathers were to preside in the home. Fathers are to procreate, provide, love, teach, and direct. A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are the helpmates and counselors to their husbands.
Children are likewise counseled in holy writ in their duty to parents. Paul the apostle wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1–3.) When parents, in companionship, love, and unity, fulfill their heaven-imposed responsibility, and children respond with love and obedience, great joy is the result.
Did the God of heaven who created and intended marriage and family to be the source of man’s greatest joy, his dearest possession while on this earth, intend that it end at death? Do marriage and families pertain only to this transitory state? Are all our sympathies, affections, and love for each other a thing of naught, to be cast off in death? Another distinctive teaching of Latter-day Saint theology is our belief in revelation from God to latter-day prophets. We testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet raised up by God to restore many great truths that had been lost because of the absence of revelation. Through him, God revealed the eternity of the marriage covenant and the timelessness of the family. The effect that this teaching has upon Church members is most pronounced. One of the early apostles in the Church recorded his feelings about this doctrine in these words:
I received from [Joseph Smith] the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.
Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.
It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the foundation of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity.
It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess with her husband. . . .
I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Deseret Book Co., 1975, pp. 297-98.)
Because of this confidence in the perpetuity of the home and family into the eternities, we build our most elaborate and expensive structures—temples of God, so that man, woman, and their children may be bound together by covenant in an everlasting union that will transcend all the limitations of this mortal sphere. It is because of this belief that the Church decries divorce, and that we are actively engaged in teaching fathers that their most important duty is within the walls of their own homes, and mothers, that they should be full-time mothers in the home. It is why we encourage parents to teach their children fundamental spiritual principles that will instill faith in God, faith in the family, and faith in their country. There is no other institution that can take the place of the family, nor fulfill its essential function.
Yes, families are intended to have joy. President David O. McKay once said, “In the well-ordered home we may experience on earth a taste of heaven.” (Conference Report, April 1969, p. 5.) How true that is!
My plea to all who read these words is that we strengthen our families so that our memories of home may be happy ones, that our home life may be a foretaste of heaven.
God intended the family to be eternal. With all my soul, I testify to the truth of that declaration. May He bless us to strengthen our homes and the lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there—father, mother, sister, brother, all who hold each other dear. In this, the greatest of all nations, in this land choice above all others, I pay humble tribute to the home. It is America’s greatest strength.
God grant that the love and unity in all our homes will be preserved to transcend the bounds of this mortal life.
(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)