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18 October 2017

The Family is Central: A Sacred Institution {Guest Post}




Many today wonder why people of faith hold the family in such high regard despite all the imperfections that seem to infect the institution. When we defend the sanctity of the family in the many debates over gay marriage, religious rights, etc., we are frequently criticized for the high rates of abuse, infidelity, and divorce even in marriages of faith.

One answer that we do not often hear from the defenders of the traditional family is this, which I consider to be the most important: the family is a sacred institution to God. Of all the answers that people of faith can offer, this ought to be the most prominent. In the plan of God, the “family is central.” and cannot be done without.

Why this emphasis, not just from people of the Abrahamic faiths, but also from God himself? The simple reality is that the family is THE bedrock of every good teaching, both in a religious sense, and in a worldly sense.

One of the finest accounts of this quality of the family comes from the Book of Mormon tale of the Army of Helaman. Having converted to the faith of Christ from an idolatrous and murderous life, the people of Ammon were threatened with extinction by their former brethren, the Lamanites, because of their faith. “Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war...” When these people came to “believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin...” And indeed, when their former brethren came to battle against them, the people of Ammon “went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord...” Although 1005 of them were slain that day, their example swayed an even greater number of Lamanites to repent and follow their example. (Alma 24, approx. 77 B.C.)

Although they found brief periods of peace in the decade that followed, within 15 years they were at war with the Lamanites again. No longer a small skirmish aimed at only a single small population, the full massed army of the Lamanite nation had gathered to conquer or destroy the people of Ammon and their protectors, the Nephites. Seeing the destruction and suffering, the people of Ammon thought to break their word to God, and take up arms against the Lamanites in defense of their freedoms. Instead, 2000 their sons who were too young to join their parents’ covenant forswearing violence, volunteered to go to war in their stead. These “very young” boys are referred to repeatedly as “stripling,” an archaic word that means in essence, a young adolescent. In my mind I liken them to myself as a scrawny 14 year old whose chest was about as well defined as a piece of plywood (apologies to Mr. Friberg).

Despite their youth, and their inexperience in war, these striplings were described as “exceedingly valiant for courage,” and “true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (53:20). Their response, when asked by their commander whether they ought to join in a terrible battle against a mighty army, a battle that had already taken the lives of thousands of seasoned soldiers, was thus:

46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it. (emphasis added)(Alma 53, approx. 64 B.C.)

Imagine the example these young men were raised with: Their parents had the conviction to surrender their own lives without a fight out of devotion to their faith; mothers and fathers willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep their word to God. I do not wonder that they became paragons of faith, integrity, and courage. Luckily for us, our parents don’t have to be willing to die to show us a good example. Any parent that tries to be a good parent, will learn “to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”

These are just a few ways that the family teaches us:
  • Pacing the hallway and singing to a child with stomach flue all night while they scream and cry? They learn to understand unconditional love.
  • Admitting to your kid that something you did was wrong and apologizing to them? You’ve just taught them to be honest and humble.
  • Getting up at an absurd hour because someone in your neighborhood needs help? You’ve just taught your kid to sacrifice for others.
  • Explaining to you kid who just dropped an air conditioner out the window that even though you’re upset, you still love them no matter what? You’ve just given them a glimpse of how God loves them.
  • Lovingly working alongside your child to clean the crayon marks off the walls? You’ve taught them both patience and responsibility.
  • Making your kid do chores for money to replace the neighbors window that just met the business end of a baseball? That’s a lesson in accountability.
  • The alcoholic father dragging himself to an AA meeting week after week despite frequent relapses? That’s teaching his kids about repentance.
  • Praying together when you’ve lost your job and you don’t know how to eat next week? You’re teaching the kids to rely on God.
  • Showing up at their baseball game even when you are dog-tired and the weather sucks? You’ve taught them that they matter to you.

This list could go on forever, and I’ve no doubt that most of you are thinking back to things your parents did that left an impression. I think you get the point: There is no other organization or structure on the face of the earth that can impart the many lessons needed to build strong societies, good governments, and a wholesome human race.

Samuel Hill is a husband, father, historian, gardener, disciple, gamer, teacher, political scientist and swordsmen without enough time to do them all. When he's not playing with his kids, he is often found neck deep in some old book that causes his wife to weep with boredom. Thereafter he is frequently found baking something to pay her back.

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