Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Doctrines of Marriage and Family and Our Role and Responsibility as Husband and Father©

[Introduction:  This afternoon I gave a 12 minute talk in our stake priesthood meeting.  Here is a copy, complete with footnotes which are about as long as the talk itself.  As always, your comments are welcome.]

Brethren, I have been asked to address the vitally important topic of the doctrines of marriage and family and our role and responsibility as a husband and father. I will do my best to keep myself out of this and cite scripture and the teachings of the brethren, and concentrate on several fundamental principles. When I read this to my wife she agreed it was a “no nonsense” talk and suggested I warn you. So, fair warning.

The Apostle Paul spoke of marriage as “this great mystery.”(1) He was not speaking in anything like the jocular manner one might encounter today. He was speaking of it as one of the mysteries of God, indeed, it is one of the mysteries of godliness. Joseph Smith and numerous passages in modern revelation encourage us to be diligent students of these mysteries.(2) 

Christ’s Church and Gospel promulgate the highest ideal and sacredness of marriage and family of any philosophy to be found on earth.(3) William Clayton said that he learned from Joseph Smith that “the doctrine of ... celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fulness of exaltation in celestial glory.”(4) 

There are only two theories of the origin of marriage. The first, the evolutionary theory accepted by the world, is that marriage is a man-made institution which evolved as civilization developed. The second one is the view given to us in the restoration. D&C 49: 15 reads, “whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.” This is the only statement in all four Standard Works which plainly states marriage is ordained of God, though the Jewish and Christian world deduced this idea from some statements in the Bible, while others found in those same stories justification to denigrate marriage and elevate celibacy and the aesthetic life.(5) Therefore, in today’s confused world in which we plainly see that marriage and family really are mysteries to the world, we know the Gospel teachings are the only way to truly know what a family is, along with its purposes and destiny.(6)  

Everything in the Plan of Salvation is for the family, beginning with the creation. 1 Nephi 17:37 states, “Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.” D&C 49: 16-17 add: “Wherefore, it is lawful that [man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might [fulfil] the [purpose] of its creation; 17) And that [the earth] might be filled with the [number] of man, according to his creation before the world was.” As we all know, the Fall made it possible for Adam and Eve and all their posterity to have families.  In bearing children and rearing families we are co-participants with God in carrying on his work which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.(7) The Atonement made it possible for God’s children who have obeyed all of the required and necessary ordinances to, be forgiven of sin, which is one of the first steps toward the larger goal of returning permanently to the presence of God as exalted beings and families.(8)

Thus, the third Article of Faith declares, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Five ordinances are required for men to be exalted: 1) baptism, 2) confirmation, 3) ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood, 4) endowment, and 5) sealing to wife and children. A sixth one is required for we who are living–the sacrament–in which we formally renew all of the covenants which we have made to this point in life.(9)

Ordinances are channels through which God gives us blessings(10) of power, authority, the full blessings of the Atonement, and sacred knowledge which we will need in order to pass to our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom.(11) Joseph Smith explained, “The question is frequently asked, ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation.”(12)These required ordinances are different from the other, non-required ordinances in one respect. Each one involves entering into a sacred covenant with God. The ordinances are the mechanism by which these covenants are made. Most importantly, by doing so we receive by covenant a multitude of blessings and promises from God. In Section 104:33 the Lord said, “And, inasmuch as they are faithful, I will multiply blessings upon them and their seed after them, even a multiplicity of blessings.” In one instance he said “I will multiply a multiplicity of blessings....”(13) We unlock or activate all those promises by obedience to those covenants.(14) So when we have received all of the ordinances we have been promised the fulness of the blessings of the fulness of the Atonement.(15)

Baptism and marriage are two gateway ordinances. Baptism, is the gate through which we must pass to get on to the straight an narrow path which leads to eternal life.(16) Marriage is the gate through which we pass into the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.(17) All of the individuals in all of the other degrees of glory will “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.”(18)

It behooves us therefore, brethren, to make every effort to know precisely what we promised God and to be diligent in keeping those promises because the Lord has said, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”(19) We cannot be casual about either learning what we promised or observing and keeping those promises. God will not be mocked. Serious consequences attend neglect or violation of those covenants.(20) They should be the highest priorities in our religious life. Bishop Robert L. Simpson, taught, “It is expedient, however that we place first things first, an agreement that we make with the Lord through his Holy Priesthood takes precedence over all else, regardless of its source or its apparent value.”(21)  

A key covenant which is not well understood is the law of chastity. Most adults arrive at marriage physically mature enough to have the power to procreate, but marriage is required to have the authority to procreate. Authority to procreate? Elder Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, taught: “In its correct form [marriage] 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(22) for the benefit of the parties, the welfare of society,(23) and the good of posterity in this world, as well as for eternal results in the life to come.”(24)  There is not time here to discuss the sweeping implications of this marvelous statement. Just let me reiterate that proper regulation of the use of our procreative powers is for the benefit of the couple, society in general, and their posterity in this world. I testify this is true.

Therefore, brethren, as apostle Matthias Cowley said, “We must remember that we have taken upon us the most solemn obligations that were ever assumed by men and women upon the face of the earth.”(25) It is only because of the importance and weight of the promised outcome that such heavy obligations are placed upon us. This is as it should be. D&C 78: 17-18 teaches:  17) Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessing the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; 18) And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessing thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.” 

This of course, makes our wives and children our greatest blessing and our greatest responsibility.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught us:
First and foremost, nothing except God Himself takes priority over your wife in your life—not work, not recreation, not hobbies.Your wife is your precious, eternal helpmate—your companion. 
What does it mean to love someone with all your heart? It means to love with all your emotional feelings and with all your devotion. Surely when you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, or abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions. 
What does it mean to ‘cleave unto her’?It means to stay close to her, to be loyal and faithful to her, to communicate with her, and to express your love for her”(26)
President Russell M. Nelson similarity taught:“So brethren your foremost priesthood duty is to nurture your marriage–to care for, respect, honor, and love your wife. Be a blessing to her and your children.”(27) His predecessor, President Boyd K. Packer said it this way: “What my son and his wife are doing with their little children transcends anything they could do in the Church or out. No service could be more important to the Lord than the devotion they give to one another and to their little children.”(28)

I hope and pray brethren, that we hear and believe and act upon these doctrines and principles.The basic spiritual component of our responsibilities, obligations, duties, and privileges is highlighted and taught in the Temple ordinances. Of these things I bear sacred witness and testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Let's think together again, soon.


1. Eph. 5:32.

2 Joseph Smith said, “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” [Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 364, 2 May 1844.] Scriptural statements regarding our responsibility to study them and promises that they will be revealed include: Mk. 13:11; 1 Ne. 10:19; Mosiah 2:19; D&C 42:61; 63:22-31; 76:5-10.

There are two types of mysteries: those no one knows because they have not been revealed, and those which some know and others do not because of their ignorance of that which has been revealed.  Baptism and marriage fall into this latter category.

3. President David O. McKay said: “A careful study of [scripture] leaves little doubt that Jesus set forth the lofty ideal that marriage is of divine origin and that the marriage bond should be held sacred.” He also said, “...we should substitute the present tendency toward a low view of marriage by the lofty view which Jesus Christ gives it.”  David O. McKay, Treasures of Life (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970), 65.

4. Joseph Smith, cited by William Clayton, in George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books,1991), 559; also in Andrew Jenson, “Plural Marriage,” The Historical Record, 6 (July 1887): 226, my emphasis.  John Taylor’s view was, “Our marriage system is one of the greatest principles that God ever developed to the human family, whether men believe it or not.”  John Taylor, JD 20:352, discourse of 30 November 1879.  He said this in context of remarks about plural marriage.

5.  Mary Catherine Thomas, “The Influence of Asceticism on the Rise of Christian Text, Doctrine, and Practice in the First Two Centuries,” PhD. diss., Brigham Young University, 1989, 36-106.

6. John H. Groberg, “Family: The Eternal Perspective,” address at the BYU Center for Family History, 27 February 2004, Internet edition, 2; David A. Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Supporting the Family (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006), 4; Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 297-98. 

In 1994 President Howard W. Hunter made the following, profound statement about the authority of this Church regarding the family:  “The Church has the responsibility--and the authority--to preserve and protect the family as the foundation of society.”  Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, October 1994, 8. 

7. D&C 132:63   “...they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men: for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.”

8. See, Russell M. Nelson,  “Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (November 2008): 93.  This highest purpose of the Atonement is crucial to understand especially in terms of the necessity of the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and is increasingly the subject of discourse in the Church.  It is one of the main subjects in the Hafen’s book: Bruce C., and Marie K. Hafen, The Contrite Spirit: How the Temple Helps Us Apply Christ’s Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015).  See for example explicit statements on pp. 8-9, 11, 19, 27, 28.  The stress can also be seen in the titles of several chapters such as 2: “The Purpose of Christ’s Atonement: Providing for Our Growth;” 4: “His Atonement: Strengthening Blessings;” and 5: “His Atonement: Perfecting Blessings.”

9. There are a growing number of statements which state that we renew all covenants we have made when we partake of the sacrament.  The following is a list of references to these statements in some semblance of chronological sequence: Delbert L. Stapley, Conference Report October 1965, 14; Marion D. Hanks, “Preparation for Prayer,” in Prayer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 28;  Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 574; Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982),  112, 220;  Mackay, John E.  “I Have a Question.” [What covenants do we renew when we partake of the sacrament?]  Ensign 25 (March 1995): 66-67; Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997),  561; L. Tom Perry, “As Now We Take the Sacrament,” Ensign (May 2006): 41; Carol Frogley Ellertson,  “The Sanctifying Power of True Ritual Worship,” in D. Kelly Ogden, et al, eds., The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, The 38th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU/ Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009), 92-94; M. Russell Ballard, Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Timeless Gospel Messages with Insights from His Grandfathers Melvin J. Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), 16.    In this last one, Elder Ballard plainly declared: “As you know, the sacrament is a renewal and a reminder of all our covenants with the Lord, not just those made at baptism.”

10. Joseph Smith used the word “channel” in reference to the priesthood, [Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 166-67], and both ordinances and the temple in the following: HC 3:379; Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (Religious Studies Center, BYU, Provo, Utah: 1980), 3; and HC 4:59.

11. First Presidency, 12 February 1971, letter to church leaders regarding their responsibility to prepare members for temple ordinances.  The statement is found in an attached document entitled, “So You Are Going To The Temple.”  Copy in possession of DWB.

12. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 331, 20 January 1844.  He said similar things on several occasions.  See: TPJS, 12, 167, 308-309, 331, 362-63, 366; Joseph Smith, in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1980), p. 233, 363; Scott Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 20 March 1842, 21 January 1844, and HC 6:319, 8 April 1844.

13. D&C 104:38.  Some of the late Book of Mormon peoples apparently had some form of eternal marriage.4 Ne. 1:11 reads: "And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them."  For those familiar with the ordinance of eternal marriage the phrase "multitude of promises" is accurate, and so far as I know is unique in doing so. Promises are not generally given in civil marriages, even those performed by properly authorized Mormon priesthood holders.  They may pray for blessings to come to the couple, but they do not confer any by the authority of the priesthood.

14. Merrill J. Bateman, “Ordinances and Covenants: The Ties that Bind,” address to the BYU Family History Conference, 29 July 2008, Internet edition; see also Dennis B. Neuenschwander,“Ordinances and Covenants,” BYU Family History Fireside, 29 October 2000, Internet edition.

15. Harold B. Lee, in Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 570; Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Century of Family History Service,” Ensign (March 1995): 61; David E. Sorensen, “The Doctrine of Temple Work,” Ensign (October 2003): 56-63; Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Ordinances and Covenants,” address to the BYU Family History Fireside, 29 October 2000, Internet edition, 6; “Holy Place, Sacred Space,” conference address May 2003, Internet Edition; Merrill J. Bateman  “The Fulness of the Priesthood,” address to the BYU Family Life Conference, 28 March 2008, Internet edition; Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 296-97, citing Dallin H. Oaks, cited by  Elder John Madsen at a Los Angeles Temple Devotional on 13 Dec. 1998;  Richard G. Scott, 21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), 73.

16. 2 Nephi 31: 16-18.

17. D&C 131:1-4.

18. D&C 132:17.

19. D&C 82:10.

20. See for example: Ezek. 17:12-19; D&C 5:27.   See also: Russell T. Osguthorpe, “The Power of Inspired Invitations.” In The Things Which My Father Saw: Approaches to Lehi’s Dream and Nephi’s Vision, edited by Daniel L. Belnap, Gaye Strathearn, and Stanley A. Johnson.  (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), p. 8; Robert L. Millet, “Honoring His Holy Name,” Ensign 24 (March 1994): 9-10; Samuel W. Richards, “Covenants–A Word of Counsel,” Millennial Star 15 (13 August 1853): 536-37.

21. Robert L. Simpson, Conference Report, April 1967, 68.

22. Parley P. Pratt said on this subject: “It is, in short, a principle so high, so holy, and so pure that it can never be secured short of a compliance with the commandments of God, not only by a virtuous source of life, but by a strict observance of his commandments in regard to tithing, building the Temple, and the orders of endowment.”  Parley P. Pratt, The Prophet 1 (24 May 1845), emphasis added.

23. Parley P. Pratt said it this way: “It is calculated to exalt society to the highest degree of happiness, union, purity, fidelity, virtue, confidence, and love, in this world and in that which is to come.”  Parley P. Pratt, The Prophet 1 (24 May 1845).

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

25. Matthias F. Cowley, Conference Report, October 1899, 63.

26. Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign (November 1987): 50.

27. Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign (May 2006): 37.

28. Boyd K. Packer, “The Weak and the Simple of the Church,” Ensign (November 2007): 8-9.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Vital Pattern Found Early in the Book of Mormon©

Why Two Return Trips to Jerusalem?

This morning I read a BYU-Idaho devotional address given in March of this year by Michael T. Ringwood who is an Area Authority Seventy. His subject was “The Power of the Book of Mormon.” He began with a lesson he drew from the two return trips Nephi and his brothers made from the Valley of Lemuel to Jerusalem. The first was to get the brass plates of Laban which would serve as their scriptures. The second was for Ishmael and his family, which consisted of several daughters who could become wives to Nephi and his brothers. We estimate that the round trip to Jerusalem and back would have been about 500 miles and would have occupied a minimum travel time of twenty-five days at a pace of twenty miles per day and perhaps twice that much in the harsh conditions of the desert. Who can really blame the boys for their reluctance? Laman and Lemuel as everyone knows murmured a good deal about the first assignment and were ready to abandon it at the first sign of opposition from Laban–the custodian of the plates. There seemed to be less resistance to the second trip to find another family to travel with them and which had eligible daughters.

At this point Elder Ringwood asks a question which I suspect most students of the Book of Mormon have asked. He wonders why there needed to be two trips? The answer is probably that given the very hostile reaction of Laban to the request for his plates, his subsequent death, and the likely hunt for those who killed him, it wouldn’t have been good to be traveling in a caravan with a family and all their belongings. So then, the next question is why send them for the plates first. Why not the family first?  

Here Elder Ringwood has a wonderful insight which I felt was worth bringing to your attention.
As I thought about the fact that there were two trips and the order in which they came, I felt a message that said it is important to establish a pattern of righteousness, valuing and using the scriptures, before entering into the most important relationship in time and in eternity.There was wisdom in obtaining the plates first.Two trips were necessary to emphasize this pattern.(1)
He sees an important “pattern” in the sequence. Individuals need to establish a pattern of righteousness which includes valuing and using the scriptures before marriage. Wow! Amen! I personally think that is one of the great benefits which can come to every missionary if they will take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity. What opportunity?  To study the scriptures and the gospel two hours every morning for two years. That is time to really fall in love with them and to establish a lifetime pattern of scripture study. Unfortunately, far too many lose the habit in the throws of the daily worldly post-mission grind. But, I think that may be one of brother Ringwood’s points. That shouldn’t happen. That pattern should be established and maintained.  And today with so many more sisters on missions, they too have the opportunity to establish the pattern. Think what can happen if two of these humble, obedient super-saints marry each other!  

There really does seem to be a pattern here. It is the same one Jesus taught at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount when he taught the multitude that they needed to establish themselves on a foundation of bedrock in order to be able to weather the storms of life.(2) That bedrock was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we need to continue to build a foundation there throughout life, because our family expands needing a larger domicile. Our circumstances and experiences challenge, broaden, and enrich us, requiring continual shoring up and strengthening the foundation upon which we build a fruitful life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Elsewhere Jesus taught the necessity of counting the cost before committing to the Gospel, because it is not only a life-long, but an eternal commitment and will require determination, dedication and stamina to engage in the two activities already alluded to–building and fighting a war.(3) Satan is always trying to chip away or undermine the foundation–so even in war the care and maintenance of the foundation is vital.

But, you say–“Not every young man goes on a mission.” “True,” I say, “but they should. There is always wisdom and safety in following the established patterns and programs of the Gospel.” But, yes, your point is taken–we must be realistic. Part of that realism also includes the opportunity for the vast majority of the youth of the Church to participate in daily seminary instruction during the school year.  If both teachers and students have the vision of what this program is all about and its potential, it too can assist in helping young people to begin to build a firm scriptural foundation. And Institute, although not as widely available, is another powerful auxiliary for this age bracket.

Not so incidentally, I see the same pattern in the temple. Individuals must qualify and go to the temple to receive their endowments by making individual covenants of righteousness. When men and women do this honestly, sincerely and faithfully, those covenants constitute something of a “pre-nuptial agreement” which potentially eliminates many possible problems by placing each individual on a firm foundation of righteousness before they are permitted to join together as a couple by making mutual covenants.

The Lord does indeed establish a pattern of getting his individual sons and daughters not only introduced to and acquainted with, but actually to fall in love with the Standard Works–the guides for a successful mortal and eternal sojourn.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Michael T. Ringwood, “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” BYU-Idaho devotional, 15 March 2016, internet edition, available at:

2.  Mt. 7:24-27.

3.  Lk. 14:25-33.