Skip to comments.Defenders of the Faith (family)
Posted on 03/10/2004 10:37:39 PM PST by Utah Girl
Editors Note: On Saturday, February 28, 2004, concerned leaders and individuals gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk about the state of the family. Family Action Council International sponsored the event slated as an Interfaith Conference on Defending Marriage and the Family: By Faith and By Reason. The conference was held in the Washington Temple Visitors Center. Sheri Dew joined Rabbi Daniel Lapin (President, Toward Tradition), Erika Harold (Miss America, 2003), Allan Carlson (The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society), Patrick Fagan (The Heritage Foundation), Gerald McDermott (Professor of Theology, Roanoke College) and Monte Nyman (President, Southern Virginia University) in the conference.
I saw some years ago in the Reader's Digest one of those "Life in these United States" excerpts that told of a little girl who was afraid of the dark. Every night, on cue, and despite what her parents did to prevent it, she would come toddling into her parents room and climb in bed with them. Patiently and persistently the mother would pick up this little girl and carry her back to her room, usually saying something like, Honey, theres nothing to be afraid of. God will watch over you. Night after night after night this happened. Then, one night, the little girl came in and climbed in bed with her parents yet again, saying, Im scared, I want to be with you. The mother picked her up and took her back into her own room, saying what she always said, Honey, theres nothing to be afraid of. God will take care of you. This time the little girl responded, Mom, sometimes we just need somebody with skin on. I think theres a great truth in that. Isnt there? Sometimes we just need to know there are others with skin on who believe as we do and who share our concerns.
Gathering of the Like Minded
It actually bolsters our faith to know that were not the only ones who believe a certain way or are concerned about certain kinds of issues. Particularly when it comes to something so vital as the family, it is wonderful and enlightening and reinforcing to gather in a gathering that includes viewpoints and really, testimonies as they were, and convictions borne by people who come from all walks of life, all kinds of different training and background and education, a variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs, a variety of cultural backgrounds and beliefs, who nonetheless join with one voice to say, Were concerned about the family. We believe in the family. And here are the things we need to do to try to sustain and defend the sanctity of the family.
We All Have Influence
Now, because I come here today with no specific title or credentials on this topic, may I simply share with you a point of view about the family that connects to the subject I was assigned, that being Defenders of the Faith. Every one of us, in our respective spheres of influencebecause we all have influence, the question is just what kind of influence we haveare in a position to defend the sanctity and virtue of the family unit. It doesnt matter what our backgrounds are, or even what our family situation is. We all have influence in various spheres, and we are all in a position to defend and support the traditional family.
With that in mind, then, may I share a point of view that comes both from the way I was raised and things I was taught, as well as other observations gained from a variety of experiences, including my service as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Relief Society is our Churchs organization for adult women, more than 5 million strong. I traveled widely and have worked with women and families in about 50 countries. That experience, combined with many others, including experiences from my own family, has led me to arrive at certain conclusions about things relative to the family.
Young Girl on a Grain Farm
Let me begin by sharing an experience I had as a teenage girl. I was raised on a big grain farm in Kansas. And, in farming countryand forgive me for what I am about to admit--you learn to drive as soon as you can see over the steering wheel and touch the pedals. For me, that was in the fourth grade. This was, by the way, a very normal pattern on big grain farms in the Midwest. As a result, by the time I was a ninth grader, I was a seasoned veteran behind the wheel, had driven a tractor for thousands of hours, and had even driven a truck in grain harvester. I give that as background to tell you this story.
The summer after my freshman year in high school, I was helping with grain harvest by driving one of those huge grain trucks filled with grain to the elevator. That was my job. The elevator we took the grain to was about seven miles away from the fields we were harvesting. Most of this seven miles was on dirty roads, except that I had to cross one highway, not a freeway, a highwaya two-lane, paved road. And there was a stop sign, of course, as you would suspect at that paved road, at that highway.
Well, for a girl who is only thirteen, tall, but only thirteen, it was a giant pain to slow down that big, heavily, fully-loaded truck. I would have to start to slow down hundreds of yards in advance of the stop sign by grinding down through all those gears to get it stopped, just to have to start from a dead stop to pick up speed again. Patience wasnt something I was gifted with at birth, and I found the entire process tedious. On one of my trips to the granary, it occurred to me that
it would be much easier if I didnt have to come to a complete stop. And even though that meant breaking the law, I couldnt see any harm in it. I mean, Kansas is flat. You can stand on a tuna fish can and see forever. So sitting up high in the cab of the grain truck, I could see for miles anything coming down the road. For several successive trips I kept thinking to myself, Boy, it would sure be a lot easier, and I could get back to the field quicker and help Dad more, if I just didnt have to come to a complete stop.
Well, you can see where this is going. After a few trips, I talked myself into this little variation from the law, and I slowed down quite a bit and ground down to the first gear, but didnt completely stop. And I was right. It was easier, quite a bit easier, to then get the truck up to full speed again. But then, something curious started to happen. In the wisdom of an impatient thirteen-year-old, who hadnt yet learned her boundaries, I began to take even more liberties. And before long, not only was I not slowing down to first gear, I wasnt doing much more than taking my foot off the pedal, slowing down slightly, looking both ways from my vantage point of the cab, and then barreling on across the highway. And wow, was that more fun.
I did this day after day, until one afternoon on my return trip (and Ill tell you those grain trucks will really fly when the grain has been dumped) I was flying home. Once again I approached the stop sign, looked both ways, barreled across the highway, and then proceeded for five miles on a dirt road.
Now, a truck on a dirt road kicks up a lot of dust. When it came to slow down and turn, as I looked in the rear-view mirror, what do you think I saw? Youre right. A cute little highway patrol car with the red light on top whirring around and the sirens going. I was instantly paralyzed with fear. Can you imagine?
When the officer could see how young I was, he instantly wanted to meet my parents. And he followed me all the way to our farm, with his lights still going. (I mean, honestly, do you think I really looked like a menace to the world or something?) He didnt even take the lights off as he went into the front yard.
I went dashing up the steps to try to explain what had happened to my mother before the policeman did. The long story made short is that it was a painful situation.
Now, with that story in mind, may I share the principle I learned that day. I share it in this context because I believe it relates to what we see happening with regard to the family in this country today. Here is the principle: The minute I talked myself into a brief, tiny, what-seemed-like-a-harmless breach of the law, it wasnt very long before there was such a total disregard of the law that I had become a danger to society. I didnt even see the highway patrolman? And that seems to be a predictable pattern: Once there is a deviation from truth or from what is right, things can escalate dramatically and quickly. Seemingly overnight. It seems to me that this is exactly where we find ourselves today with respect to key issues and all matters relative to the family.
High Water Mark for Moral Relationships?
I was watching one of the prominent news shows on January 2 of the year 2000 as they predicted what the trends this century would bring. At the end of a long list, they said, At the end of this century the family wont look like it does now. Unfortunately, my friends, it doesnt look as though it is going to take nearly that long unless we are able to launch a serious defense of the natural, traditional familyby which I mean, mother, father, and children, living and working together. There are many threats with which we must contend. Let me only mention two.
One happened this morning when I was in the hotel and went down to the health club to work out. I was there peddling away and watching one of the early morning news programs and they started to comment on a famous athlete who currently finds himself charged with a felony with respect to a young woman. One of the commentators said that the defense was planning to use as part of their argument that just the week prior to the time the alleged abuse took place, he had been in a similar situation in another state, where he had engaged in sexual relations with one of the workers in the hotel. The woman involved in that instance had said he conducted himself like a perfect gentleman. As this comment was made, a woman riding the exercise bike next to me looked at me and said, Boy, weve hit a real high water mark for moral relationships, havent we? I want you to think about that kind of a rationale being used and put out on the airwaves. I invite you to consider how far-reaching such a philosophy regarding illicit moral relations may have gone.
Also, while I was peddling away, I found myself reading the latest edition of one of the nations most popular news magazines. One of the major articles was about gay marriage. There were several statements that stood out for me in a dramatic and terrifying way, but one of the most sobering features of the entire article was a picture of two handsome, young men, getting married. What distressed me most was the fact that they were both holding an infant daughtertwin girls they had adopted. I was, frankly, heartsick. What kind of chance do those girls have being raised in that kind of setting? What will their understanding of men and women, marriage and families be? Is there any chance that, as adults, they could expect to marry and enjoy a healthy relationship with a man, including rearing children together? In addition, there were alarming concepts about family presented throughout the articleconcepts that even questioned the validity of heterosexual families.
To say I found the entire article sobering would be a grand understatement. And I found myself thinking, Talk about influence. Imagine the influence of that one magazine in presenting ideas about the family that are totally in opposition to Gods plan and will for His children.
Lining Up With Hitler or Against Him
This escalating situation reminds me of a statement of a World War II journalist by the name of Dorothy Thompson who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post in Europe during the pre-World War II years when Hitler was building up his armies and starting to take ground. In an address she delivered in Toronto in 1941 she said this: Before this epic is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up with Hitler or against him. Every living human being either will have opposed this onslaught or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If he takes no side, he is on Hitlers side. If he does not act, that is an actfor Hitler.
May I take the liberty of reading this statement again and changing just a few words, applying it to what I fear we face today? Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family or against it. Every living human being will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.
At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the familybut maybe not. I just turned 50 years old, and I have never married. That was not my intention, and it has not been my choice. When someone asks me why I have never married, the simple and truthful answer is that nobody has ever asked me. Nonetheless, when I speak about the family, I have a deep, profound and abiding belief that the family is absolutely ordained of God, that it is part of His plan for His children, that marriage is supposed to be between a male and a female, and that children deserve to be born to and raised by two parents, father and mother. That is the ideal.
I will say that because my life has not taken the traditional pattern which I expected and hoped for, that when I speak of the family, in addition to what I know is the divinely-appointed role of father and mother, I also include in my definition of family grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and so on, because I have a deep feeling that an extended family is crucial to the raising of children and to the bolstering of one another.
A Return to Old and Stable Values Begins in the Home
Id like to quote something that President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said about the family. I believe our problems, almost every one of them, arise out of the homes of the people. If there is to be a reformation, if there is to be a change, if there is to be a return to old and stable values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled and that love is nurtured. It is in the home that we learn the values by which we guide our lives. That home may be ever so simple, but with a good father and a good mother, it can be a place of wondrous upbringing. It is broken homes that lead to a breakup in society.
We have just seen the research that backs this up. Im sure that Dr. Carlson and Dr. Fagan would tell us that they didnt even scratch the surface of the research and statistics that all say essentially the same thing: that stable homes lead to stable people who build a stable society. Its just about that simple. I must say that until I was appointed last year to serve as a White House delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, that while I was aware of some of the statistics, I started learning much more than I had known before about the facts. It was interesting to me, and gratifying as well, to find that all of the research done by all of the scholars reinforces what I have known my entire life to be true: and that is, that the family is the fundamental and most crucial unit of society, and that when it is threatened, all of the society is threatened.
All of these studies are interesting. But I must tell you that if there had been no studies, it wouldnt take anything to convince me about these truths regarding the family, simply because of what I have observed myself.
Living by Principles I Knew To Be True
If youll permit me some personal observations and reflections as it relates to this. I was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my parents were very faithful participants in our Church. From the time I was young, they taught me many thingsamong them how important the family is. They taught me how important marriage is, that it was to be between a man and a woman, and that it was a sacred union. They taught me that marriage can be forever, eternal, and that it is vital to find the right person and then to marry at the right time and in the right place so that it can be an eternal relationship. I was also taught how important it was to remain morally clean before marriage, and then to be completely faithful inside of marriage. That is what my parents taught me and my brothers and sisters.
There came a time in my life when I determined for myself that I believed these principles and as a result I made the commitment to the Lord that I would live a chaste life. I am happy to say that I have been completely faithful to that promise, despite the fact that I am a 50-year-old, never-married woman. Now, frankly, it has not always been easy to stay faithful to those vows. I had no idea when I made them that I would still be unmarried at the age of fifty. But on the other hand, may I tell you that I feel quite convinced that staying morally clean has been far easier than the alternative.
Think about it. Though I have spent plenty of lonely nights and had plenty of times when I felt alone, there are other, more difficult things, Ive never had to deal with. Ive never had to worry one second about an unwanted pregnancy or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Ive never worried for one second about a sexually-transmitted disease. Ive never spent even an instant feeling regret that a man had used and then discarded me. Ive never dealt with any of those things. Ive never had any reason to contemplate an abortion.
So may I suggest something to you that we dont ever see on television or in the movies? And that is this: I believe the moral way, is actually, and somewhat ironically, the easier way and the far better way to live. And I just wish we would teach this more.
Far too many families break up or are interrupted or thwarted in some way because of immorality or moral perversions. Why dont we, in our individual spheres of influence, talk about this more. Why dont we share these principles as clearly as possible. Sometimes we talk to our youth about remaining morally clean, but I wonder if we explain to them why this is so critical. I loved what the rabbi said earlier: Tell your kids that it is because God said it should be this way.
God has indeed directed that He wishes for His children to live moral lives, and there are very practical as well as spiritual benefits from doing so.
I have never met in all my life a man or woman who was happier because he or she had committed adultery. I have never met someone who was happier because they had completely forsaken their integrity and were living beneath themselves. They may describe other emotions and other sensations, but it isnt joy and it is not happiness and it is not peace of mind. Though there are many things today that are breaking apart the family, many of those reasons go back to basic morality and chastity.
I cite my own family as an example. Weve had plenty of heartaches in our family. About seven years ago I lost a younger brother suddenly. Heart attack, died at the age of 39, left a young wife and three children, ages 15, 11, and 7. It was devastating to that little family and devastating for all of us. I saw the pain. I saw the heartache. I saw how hard my sister-in-law worked to pick up the reins of that family and keep moving forward. Happily, after about 5 years she remarried a wonderful man. And Ill tell you, as hard as she had worked and tried to keep that family together and to nurture those children, there was an enormous difference when she remarried. The influence of this very fine man on my brothers children is enormous. Ill be forever grateful to him for playing such a grand role in the lives of my nephew and nieces.
Two years ago my sister lost two children in a tragic automobile accident, a 15 year-old and an 11 year-old girl. Both died instantly in a horrific crash. I saw the emotions and the grief of those parents and their siblings as they tried to deal with the intense pain. It has been so hard for everyone.
But Ill tell you that I have never seen pain to compare with something I saw a year ago when I sat in the living room of a family I love dearly as the father explained to his children that he and their mother were separating. They were separating because of some choices he madeall of which were immoral and he had to live with. He took responsibilitygood for himand he told the children it was not their mothers fault. But I have never seen pain in children like that day and subsequent to that.
When the studies say that children who come from divorced homes struggle more in school and are in jeopardy for many other things, Ive seen it. I know its true, because the emotional upheaval is so extreme. This husband and father has just wept because suddenly the fog has cleared, and he realizes what he has lost. He suddenly realizes how much he loves his wife and children. It is heartbreaking to see the wreckage his immorality has inflicted upon the entire family. But in short, I can tell you I have seen for myself, in real life, that the results of all of the studies and research are true: broken families lead all too often to broken lives. Strong families lead to strong boys and girls, men and women, who are in a position then to strengthen our entire society.
Using our Spheres of Influence
If I were going to suggest something today for us it would be this: I invite us each to think about our various spheres of influenceas mothers and fathers, as a community or religious leaders, and so forth. Think about all of the spheres in which you have influence. Think about what you can do, by word and by deed, to defend the sanctity and the stability of the family. You can do it by example. You can do it by what you say. You can do it by what you support and what you do not support. You can do it talking with friends on the street corner or subway. You can do it at church. You can do it in the local PTA. You can do it over the airwaves, if you happen to have access to the media in some way. And without question, you can do it in your immediate and extended families.
I can tell you that my nieces and nephews absolutely know that their Aunt Sheri is very interested in who they date. My oldest nephew called me just the other day to say, Theres somebody I think youd better meet. And I cant wait. I have told the kids in our family that I would far rather break their hearts at 21 by at least offering an opinion about whoever theyre dating, than be sitting holding them when theyre sobbing at 41 because whoever they married turned out to be not as committed to marriage and family as they had thought and hoped.
There are more things we can do than we can possibly imagine, regardless of our life situationto protect and guard the family. We can talk openly and candidly, but with kindness and certainly with the Spirit as directed from above, so that our youth know what they are dealing with. There is not a way in the world that our children are going to go to school and not hear about every kind of possible perversion imaginable. I would far rather be the one to teach them about the family and marriage than to have them persuaded by their classmates, or a teacher, or somebody in a dark corner somewhere.
Influence of a Family
There are ways we can defend the faith, every day, starting with the people we love the very most. I wonder sometimes if we realize the impact that can happen in a family. My nephew, who I mentioned a few minutes ago, who died in the automobile accident, is a perfect example. The weekend of his funeral as we looked through his journal, we came across a remarkable entry. Now, this boy was all boy. He was on the state championship football team as a freshman. But he was a very smart and good boy. Just three days before he died, he had written in his journal, Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching me about God. Now think about it. Imagine what it meant to his parents to stumble upon that journal and see that they had some influence upon their son, especially when only a few days later, he was gone.
I have spoken frequently about my grandma who with grandpa homesteaded the farm that got me into trouble with the law later on. I loved grandma. As a young girl I followed her everywhere. I marked my scriptures the way she marked hers, and I carried around the books she carried around. Even though she died when I was eleven, she had an enormous influence on me during my formative years.
Not long ago we came across a fairly brief life history she had written. In this account, she talked about what happened when she lost her 32-year-old son in a sudden mining accident. This is what she wrote: This has been a very hard thing for us to take. It has left a great vacancy that cannot be filled. Now, it was the next sentence and its juxtaposition that really caught my attention. But God has been good to us. And I wish to say for the benefit of our posterity: Do not ever be slack in your duties. We must always be found defending truth. And we must be found teaching it by our every word and action.
When I came across these words not terribly long ago, it was on a day when I really needed a boost. And that day, it came from my grandma, long since deceased but powerful nonetheless.
I have thought many times how interesting it is that her influence on me persists to this day. It is very interesting to me and also very reassuring about how palpable and sustaining and truly powerful the influence of a mother and father, grandma and grandpa, aunt and uncle, brother and sister, can be, as we help teach those closest to us what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad.
Looking for a Clear Signal
I wish to conclude by simply saying that last year at this time, I headed off to the United Nations for my first-ever United Nations experience. Many of you have had that experience, and it was eye-opening to say the very least. What I saw there interested me, however. I saw some people who clearly were absolutely bent on destroying the familythat was their goal. That was their motive. It seems clear to me who serves as their inspiration.
But I saw something else that was curious. I met some women from around the world representing their various countries who struck me as wonderful womenwomen from all walks of lifemany different cultural, ethnic, religious backgrounds. They seemed to be good, honest, God-fearing women. And yet sometimes they would be lobbying for the same things that the mean, angry, ugly women lobbied for. I found it very confusing at first. But what it really pointed out to me, among many other things that I wont detail here today, was that when you stood and talked with those women and gave them another clear point of view about the family, about marriage and what its supposed to be, about abortion or whatever the issues arewhen you can articulate a clear point of viewit can quickly counter what those others who want to destroy the family are trying to do.
In other words, there are many people in the world who are looking for the truth but may not know where to find it. Theyre looking for a clear signal, and when they hear it, they will respond.
So it seems to me that it is imperative that you and I, regardless of our backgrounds, become well versed about what is being said in the world, about what social lines are being drawn, so that when we find ourselves in situations, again, whether it is on a street corner, or at the United Nations, were in a position to clearly articulate why the sanctity of the family simply must be defended. Why marriage simply has to be regarded as a bond and a contract between a man and a woman. And why any society, any country, is basically at the mercy of the strength of the family.
Very simply, stable homes and stable families build stable people. And emotionally stable people are the ones who will keep our country strong and help have influence around the world in a positive and penetrating kind of way. And it happens little by little. Whereas with the grain truck little by little I went from complete obedience to complete disobedience, I believe it can happen the other way, that little by little, if we will be articulate, and well versed and well tutored so that we can speak out for truth regardless of the setting, that we can be examples for what is right and true.
Little by little, if we will work together and stand tall for truth, we can help reclaim and preserve the family. Thank you very much.
This person is living in LA-LA Land. Our message is "It's wrong." Their [non-hidden] message is "Can't we all get along and just let us do what we want." Our message has always been unpopular to a dying world.
Richard Wilkins who is an international law professor at Brigham Young University had an extremely interesting experience at the Instanbul UN conference on families. Several of the amendments the feminists wanted passed were well on their way to the final vote. Things were being orchestrated from the White House to international leaders. The feminists are dictators they stacked the deck on the final day of speeches, 10 out of 10 were vetted by them, and had the message they wanted. Some way, Wilkins became one of the speakers that day. His speech was so powerful in favor of the family that the 'resolutions' that were going to be so detrimental towards families were voted down. He had many delegates come up to him afterwards and say that they were waiting for someone ELSE to say something. They were too afraid to say anything on their own.