Sunday, July 5, 2015

“So Much Consequence, Relating to Time and Eternity”: Some Heartfelt Advice to the Youth of the Church©

In recent weeks I have observed in this column that one reason why many Latter-day Saints, especially the young, are pleased with and support the recent Supreme Court’s decision about same-sex marriage is because they do not know the Church’s doctrine of marriage and family well enough. So, I decided to do my little part to help change that if I can, inasmuch as I spent my life trying to teach the Gospel to the young.

This essay will not be an exposition of the Church’s doctrine of marriage and family.  I may do something along those lines in a later blog.  Today’s post is a plea with the youth to take seriously the teachings of our leaders, rather than just dismiss them because they don’t like what they hear, or they are in conflict with the popular attitudes of the day, especially if those attitudes permeate their small group of friends.

If one is to be even a nominal Mormon that suggests that one has some part of a testimony that this Church is true. That implies that Joseph Smith was a prophet who received direct revelation from God to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ to the earth along with its priesthood, teachings, and ordinances–for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. It also implies, does it not, that we believe the modern successors to Joseph Smith are prophets, seers and revelators? If you grant me even that much, then I would argue that we the members are obligated to take seriously what our leaders say. What do I mean by take seriously what they say?

I offer only one example to make my point.  In 1881, president Charles W. Penrose made the following profound comment regarding marriage and family.
     In its correct form [marriage] it is under the divine direction. The Father of the race has the right to a voice in the sexual unions of his children. Those relations are fraught with so much consequence, relating to time and eternity, that the Supreme Ruler should regulate them for the benefit of the parties, the welfare of society and the good of posterity in this world, as well as for eternal results in the life to come.(1)
So how does one take this seriously, especially if one is tempted to disagree with it? Here is a suggested plan of attack which I believe demonstrates the student’s faith and real intent as Moroni might have asked us to show. First, President Penrose teaches us that the correct form of marriage is under divine direction. Two things stand out here that call for inquiry. The first would be to learn what he and the Church means by the “correct form” of marriage. What do the scriptures have to say about this? What did the Prophet Joseph have to say about it? It is also very important to ask the question from the Church’s point of view, why is the correct form of marriage an important issue?  Second, he speaks of “divine direction.” What does he mean by that? Do the following sentences elaborate on the subject? If they do, what do they add to the idea of divine direction? Do you agree that the Father has a right to a “voice in the sexual unions of his children”?  If not, on what basis do you disagree? Are those arguments consistent with the Gospel, or are they based on modern cultural attitudes? Do you know the difference?

Literally, studying the meaning behind the third and last sentence could take a great deal of time, perhaps even coming back to it again and again for a whole lifetime in order to understand it thoroughly. One of the most important matters it raises is to notice that he says marriage and sexual relations are “fraught with so much consequence relating to time and eternity.” The diligent and faithful student, to truly understand President Penrose, must delve deeply into the consequences of marriage and sex as they relate to both time and eternity. Can you write a meaningful paragraph or two about this subject if asked by someone? More importantly, President Penrose says because of those consequences the “Supreme Ruler should regulate” marriage and sex. How does God regulate marriage and sexual relations? Does it bother or otherwise concern you that he does?  If so, why?  Is it possible that a little more study of the doctrines and teachings of the Church about these matter will help change your mind? Moreover, President Penrose says God does regulate them for the benefit of three groups: 1) the parties involved, 2) society in general, and 3) their future posterity. He does not speak in negative language; rather he speaks of “benefit,” “welfare,” and “good.” Does this surprise you? Do you adequately understand how God’s regulations upon marriage and sex benefit couples, provide for the welfare of society, and the good of posterity? Since the most recent Supreme Court decision, his reference to the welfare of society should be taken doubly seriously. Are you thoroughly informed about what the brethren have said in the last twenty-five years on this subject? This may take some digging and thinking and praying, but I promise it is well worth the effort, and will make you a stronger Latter-day Saint.  Finally, he speaks of the benefits in the world to come. That is, benefits accrue to those who follow God’s guidance regarding moral conduct, marriage, and family in both time, and eternity. Could you explain to a seminary class of 9th graders what the benefits are which come in eternity? How about college freshmen? If you do not understand the Church’s position adequately, how can you be comfortable in questioning, challenging, or rejecting it?

Well, much, much more could be said about this. However, it should be obvious that there is a great depth of meaning hidden in three sentences of President Penrose’s statement, and it takes work to ferret that meaning out. Much more work than clicking a mouse a couple of times to color your FaceBook icon with a rainbow in support of the LGBT community’s so-called “victory.” And I might add, much more beneficial to both yourself and society in general.(2)  In all that I have suggested, are you willing to not only study, but to pray and ask God if the teachings you are studying are true?

There are some final questions I have for you.  Is there in anything I have suggested or what President Penrose has said which you could consider unrighteous, misleading, or prompted by an evil motive? Can you say the same about the advice you may be receiving from those who oppose the Church's position on marriage and family, or more importantly, the advice and/or support even as seemingly innocent as coloring your FB icon in rainbow colors, you may be giving to others in such opposition? Are you so very, very certain that your opinion, your knowledge, and your teachings are more correct than the Apostles and Prophets which are appointed by God to guide and direct his Church?

My conviction is that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the answers to society’s problems. But learning its doctrines and understanding its teachings requires effort, faith, and diligence. My sincerest desire is that the youth of the Church would understand this rather than resort to the quick judgmentalism that is often the case among them, especially on this issue where they have great emotional zeal, but as Dr. Nibley suggested, such zeal is often without knowledge.

Let’s think together again, soon.

1.   Charles W. Penrose,  “Leaves from the Tree of Life,” Eleventh  Leaf, The Contributor, 2 (August 1881), p. 337.

2.  A personal note.  Some readers will be tempted to ask, "Brother Bachman, you are unreal, do you really expect us to invest this kind of effort, study, and diligence in relationship to the doctrines and teachings on morality, marriage and family?  Have you done this, yourself?"  The answer to both questions is, yes.  Our eternal exaltation depends upon our understanding of and acting upon these things.  I have been studying the subject intently for the past 8 years, [that is how I found this great quotation from President Penrose] and I can testify forthrightly about the benefits it has brought to me in knowledge, understanding, and most importantly testimony of what we are being taught.

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