How does the breakdown of the family affect society? How can we strengthen our families and society? What effects do education, morals, and religion have on families and communities?
Most of us are aware that the divide between the people in our nation continues to grow wider and deeper. Liberals claim that the divide is caused by rich people who are not willing to share their worldly goods. Their answer is to tax the rich more and distribute the money to the poor. Conservatives claim that people are poor because they are too dependent on government for handouts. Their answer is to set goals and work hard in order to live the American dream. Conservatives just want equal justice for all under the U.S. Constitution. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that society has moved away from God and that simply living the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ can make the greatest difference in the rate of family breakdowns, societal problems, and economic ills.
"It is our homes and families that need reforming in this increasingly materialistic and secular world. A stunning example is the growing disregard for marriage here in the
. Earlier this year the New York Times reported that `the share of children born to
unmarried women has crossed a threshold:
more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside
marriage.' (Jason DeParle and Sabrina
Taverise, "Unwed Mothers Now a Majority Before Age of 30," New York Times, Feb. 18, 2012, A1). United States
"We also know that among couples in the
who do marry, nearly half get divorced.
Even those who stay married often lose their way by letting other things
interfere with their family relationships. United States
"Equally worrisome is the ever-growing gap between the rich and poor and between those who strive to preserve family values and commitments and those who have given up on doing so. Statistically, those who have less education and consequently lower incomes are less likely to marry and to go to church and much more likely to be involved in crime and to have children outside of marriage. And these trends are also troubling in much of the rest of the world. (See W. Bradford Wilcox and others, "No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life among the White Working Class," available at www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/Religion_WorkingPaper.pdf.)
"Opposite of what many had thought, prosperity and education seem to be connected to a higher likelihood of having traditional families and values.
Elder Ballard questioned the cause and effect of such happenings. "Do some sectors of our society have stronger values and families because they are more educated and prosperous, or are they more educated and prosperous because they have values and strong families? In this worldwide church we know that it is the latter. When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.
"And, of course, societies at large are strengthened as families grow stronger. Commitments to family and values are the basic cause. Nearly everything else is effect. When couples marry and make commitments to each other, they greatly increase their chances of economic well-being. When children are born in wedlock and have both a mom and a dad, their opportunities and their likelihood of occupational success skyrocket. And when families work and play together, neighborhoods and communities flourish, economies improve, and less government and fewer costly safety nets are required.
"So the bad news is that family breakdown is causing a host of societal and economic ills. But the good news is that, like any cause and effect, those ills can be reversed if what is causing them is changed. Inequities are resolved by living correct principles and values. … the most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives and will become … an example and a beacon for all peoples of the earth."
After diagnosing the breakdown in families, Elder Ballard suggested some statistics from the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "The Church stands as an example of heart turning and as a catalyst for good in the world. Among Church members who are married in the temple and who regularly attend Sunday meetings, the divorce rate is significantly less than that of the world, and families remain closer and are in more frequent communication. The health in our families is better, and we live several years longer than the population average. We contribute more financial resources and more service per capita to those in need, and we are more likely to seek higher education. I point out these things not to boast but to testify that life is better (and much happier) as hearts turn toward family and as families live in the light of the gospel of Christ."
Elder Ballard then proceeded to list several actions we can take to strengthen ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nations. 1) "Prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home." He quoted the counsel given by two prophets. President Harold B. Lee said that `the most important … work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 134). President David O. McKay counseled, `No other success can compensate for failure in the home' (quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: the Savior of Civilization , 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116)."
Elder Ballard counseled us to organize our time and lives in such a way to have time for prayer, scripture study, and wholesome activities together as families. He suggested that children should have responsibilities in the home in order for them to learn how to work and to be prepared to handle the responsibilities of adulthood. He counseled parents to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the home.
2) "Do things in the right order." Elder Ballard emphasized that the natural order of things is for a couple to get married before they began having babies. He taught young men to "accept cheerfully the responsibilities of family life" and young women that "No career can bring you as much fulfillment as rearing a family."
3) "Husband and wives … should be equal partners in your marriage…. No one owns a spouse or children… Everyone, married or single, can be happy and supportive within whatever family you may have."
4) "Use the family resources of the Church." Elder Ballard reminded us of what President Lee once said, "that the Church is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families" (see Teachings: Harold B. Lee, 148).
Here we have the words of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving us counsel on how to overcome the breakdown in families, the problems in society, and the great divide between the rich and the poor. The answers to our problems lie in living the gospel of Jesus Christ and putting our trust in God.