There is much in the way of stories and news and updates that I could share today, but I feel like there is something else that needs to be said. I am not certain exactly why, but I feel like I want to talk briefly about what I am doing in Japan as it relates to these exciting and tumultuous times in which we live.
The political and economic climate in the United States and worldwide has re-awakened a discussion, centuries in the making, regarding class, welfare, opportunity, charity, greed, and liberty. Opinions on this topic are varied, to say the least, and we could spend hours and longer debating these without ever coming to a satisfying consensus. That is not what I want to do today. Instead, what I would like to do is share a divinely inspired message of timeless truths which can help all of us – regardless of our opinions, views, or circumstances – be happy, healthy, and productive. As an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, I boldly declare the truthfulness of this message and urge all who read it to ponder it and apply it to your lives.
A disturbing report was recently released by the New York Times, stating that for the first time, “more than half of births to American women under age 30 occur outside of marriage” (Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, “Unwed Mothers Now a Majority Before Age 30,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 2012, A1).
Perhaps there are some of you who read my remarks here who do not share my alarm at this frightening statistic. I urge you to reconsider your perspective! I could cite scripture, prophetic counsel, generally accepted societal practices, or an appeal to common sense in an effort to detail the host of societal ills, of both moral and practical character, that have and will continue to plague the society in which the traditional family is allowed to dissolve. But if there is no other argument which will get your attention, I will appeal to your pocket-books.
Most statisticians agree that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. In the whirlwind of politically-charged discussion, the exact nature of the cause of this disparity becomes obscure. It is, however, a generally-accepted and amply-demonstrated fact that children born out of wedlock or raised in single-parent homes are less likely to obtain higher education and prosper in the workplace, and more likely to become involved in crime, drugs, and other pursuits which stress societies and further aid the disintegration of the honest work ethic. More than any other single thing, this ethic brings about personal financial well-being. Put simply, there is a direct relationship between the health of the traditional nuclear family and the ethical and economic prosperity of a nation.
This finding seems to agree with a divine promise given once to the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi in 1 Nephi 2:20, and afterwards repeated at least five times to his descendants, eventually becoming the central principle upon which the economy of that ancient civilization was established – Inasmuch as the people keep the commandments of God, they shall prosper in the land.
Prophets, ancient and modern, have made known to the people of the earth the divinely-inspired pattern for family living which The Lord has prepared for us. Far from being a dictatorial decree intended to compel us to a state of bondage and subservience, this pattern was given to promote happiness and prosperity, and to reverse the process of moral, social, and economic decay.
“…Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children…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…
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…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…
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…
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. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to The World.)
These warnings are grim, but the message contained in this inspired declaration is one of hope and change. The Lord has not merely revealed the cause of these calamities, but also the solution. We have spoken enough about the diagnosis. Let us speak of the cure.
In the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M Russel Ballard, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, made the following statement: “When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.” (That the Lost May Be Found, By Elder M. Russell Ballard. April 2012 General Conference)
What are these “gospel principles” of which Elder Ballad speaks? They are the same as they have always been in every dispensation of time: Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, the making and keeping of sacred covenants by means of ordinances such as baptism and marriage for time and eternity The Lord’s House, relying on the guidance of God through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and last of all, remaining true and faithful to covenants made with God and with each other despite whatever opposition may come.
Speaking of these covenants, Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the same Quorum of Twelve Apostles had this to say: “If you have made [them,] keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is still time.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard. By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. April 2012 General Conference)
It really is that simple. We know what we must do. We know how to do it. I cannot promise that it will be easy; nothing worth doing ever is. But I testify in the name of Him who called me to this ministry, that the blessings promised to the faithful and their families in this life and the next await all those who heed this call. You are loved. You are not so lost that The Good Shepherd cannot find you and carry you home to safety. If you remain skeptical, humble yourself, get on your knees, and pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Christ to know if these things are not true. You will come to know, with the same conviction I know, that The Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families, societies, and nations. This is my testimony, and I share it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.