Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Love Makes the Difference

If there is one thing I wish my father had understood, it would be this:

“Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united to you, love them! And prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys-however wayward they might be… when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit.

“Speak to them kindly; get down and weep with them if necessary and get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence… approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned…. You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 316-17.)

I wonder how much of my behavior in my younger years could have been avoided had I only been taught gospel principles with love. What I knew of the gospel was rules, harshness, hypocrisy, and punishment. I didn't understand the why of obedience, or the blessing it was meant to be. I couldn't comprehend a loving Heavenly Father because I had never experienced a loving earthly father. I had no reason or desire to follow either because I didn't feel that they had my best interest at heart.

This is why it does no good to try to force anyone to accept or live the gospel. We learn best from those who we feel genuinely care about us, and when we are taught with love, it sinks deep in our heart and makes a lasting impression. The only way to teach, the only way to share what's important to us, the only way to have true communication, the only way to experience unity, is through love. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stay-At-Home Moms

This week in my religions class we've been learning a lot about how families "should" work. It's been really interesting to read the quotes from prophets and apostles and to think about how negatively they would be accepted by most people today, but how I've seen in my own life how true they are.

For example, President Ezra Taft Benson said that fathers "have a sacred responsibility to provide for the material needs of [their] family." He followed up this statement by further admonishing men to work to support their families, and not to expect or require their wives to. Here's what he said, "In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter."

This is an extremely unpopular view today. By and large, men expect their wives to contribute to the household monetarily, and many women advocate for the "freedom" they experience by working outside the home. Many seem to feel that this new "norm" is an improvement over the time-tested and honored organization of a working father and stay-at-home mom. However, President Harold B. Lee taught, “the most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home." In my own opinion, the work that a woman can do in the home is of far greater value than any amount of income or self-fulfillment she may receive outside the home.

I'm not just basing my opinion on the statements of some long-dead patriarchs of the church. I've experienced both sides of the argument in my life. My mom was, by my father's urging, required to work outside the home. My siblings and I missed having her at home. We needed the love, time, care, teaching, and nurture of our mother. There were many, many incidents that happened that likely would not have if she had been able to be home with us. My mom did the best she could, but it's impossible for a mother to give 100% to her children when she is at work 80% of the time that they're awake.

Contrast this with the blessing that I had of being able to be a stay-at-home mom with my own daughter. There were a few times in my marriage when disability or other needs necessitated my working outside the home, but by and large I was able to be home to take care of my child. I was able to spend a lot of quality time teaching, playing, and nurturing my daughter. I'm nowhere close to a perfect mom, but my daughter has made it clear to me that she appreciates that I "gave up" those years when I could have been working and spent them instead on helping her to grow and to feel loved. No amount of monetary compensation could have been worth more than the time we spent together.

My own experience, and that of many other adults and children I've known, confirm to me that a woman's place is in the home, not as a limitation on her, but as the most profound and rewarding growth experience that not only she, but also her children, will have.

I know not all women will have that option, and that there are many who do a great job raising their children while also working, and I salute them. They are doing the work of two or more people, and those who are able to successfully raise and teach their children while doing so generally have a lot of heavenly help and are amazing (albeit ultra tired) women. God bless the fathers and mothers, the husbands and wives, and the children who are all doing their best to love Him and to love each other.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Advice on Marriage (Not Mine!)

I love these great bits of advice from Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his talk "Divorce." (Ensign, May 2007, 70-73)

"I strongly urge you and those who advise you to face up to the reality that for most marriage problems, the remedy is not divorce but repentance. Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness. The first step is not separation but reformation. Divorce is not an all-purpose solution, and it often creates long-term heartache. A broad-based international study of the levels of happiness before and after “major life events” found that, on average, persons are far more successful in recovering their level of happiness after the death of a spouse than after a divorce. Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce— especially where there are children—generate new conflicts.

Even those who think their spouse is entirely to blame should not act hastily. One study found “no evidence that divorce or separation typically made adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage. Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce reported being happily
married five years later.” A woman who persisted in an intolerable marriage for many years until the children were raised explained: “There were three parties to our marriage—my husband and I and the Lord. I told myself that if two of us could hang in there, we could hold it together.”

Don’t treasure up past wrongs, reprocessing them again and again. In a marriage relationship, festering is destructive; forgiving is divine. Plead for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to forgive wrongs, to overcome faults, and to strengthen relationships.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for they must know that marriage … means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing.
It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all.”"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Perfection and Marriage

When Jesus taught in Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect," I think that it's interesting that He didn't tell us to be perfect like Him. Why is that? After all, He was perfect, wasn't He? Maybe perfection requires more than just an absence of sin and a multitude of good works, though.

The definition of the word perfect has changed some over the ages. The original meaning was that of being finished, completed, or even whole. I think this sheds some light on why Jesus would tell us to be perfect like His father, rather than like Him.

First, Heavenly Father is the finished, complete, and whole of perfection. He is the Father, the great Elohim, the Eternal God. Jesus, while also a God, was still on the earth, still in the midst of His mortal ministry, and as such couldn't have been said to have been finished. He still had work to do.

Second, and this may be a stretch for some, is that Heavenly Father is married. He is complete and whole because He has an eternal marriage partner. When Jesus taught about marriage, he said that "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh." (Matthew 19:5) God instituted marriage from the beginning, and meant for it to be a way for a man and a woman to complete each other. Marriage was to take two halves and make a whole, hence the ability for two to become only one. The only way for two to be one mathematically is if the two are halves. And half of a person can never be whole, or perfect. This could mean that Jesus' teaching to be "perfect" also had application as a sermon on marriage.

The more that I read about marriage and its importance to our selves, families, and society, the more that I am convinced that it is not a man-made contract of convenience. It is a divinely appointed institution whereby we can learn to become more like our Father in Heaven. Marriage is a class that teaches us things we literally cannot and will not learn in any other way.