Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Family Proclamation in a Consumer Society

Thanks to everyone for joining us for this two-week celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World!  We hope that you have enjoyed the posts that have been presented this year, and that it has helped you to gain a better testimony of the importance of family and of this inspired document.  

Please welcome our final post in this year's series from James Goldberg of Mormon Midrashim:

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
-Psalms 19:7

Is Fidelity Obsolete in a Take-Out World?

I recently read an article entitled “The secret to happiness? An enduring marriage and an affair with lots of sex.” In the piece, British sociologist Catherine Hakim argues that in our sophisticated, modern society stable marriage and serial infidelity should not be considered incompatible. “Sex,” says Hakim, “is no more a moral issue than eating a good meal.” She says that since we’re comfortable sometimes eating at home with a spouse and sometimes eating out “to sample different cuisines and ambiences, with friends or colleagues,” we should be willing to fulfill our sexual appetites sometimes here and sometimes there—and should shed old moralities that fail to account for the importance of “sex as a leisure activity in consumer society.”

I don’t think I have to tell you that Hakim’s “secret to happiness” is a disaster (and one more fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that “the wisdom of the wise will perish”). You don’t have to be an expert to know that one relationship grounded in trust, fidelity, and shared problem-solving is worth far more than all the fleeting romantic adventures a person could find. But I think her piece helps shed light on the basic assumptions many idiotic conclusions today rest on. And for that, it deserves our attention.

Here’s where I think Hakim goes wrong: she correctly states that we live in a consumer society, where people treat goods, services, and perhaps also spouses as disposable. But she incorrectly assumes that’s a good thing, and that we should re-align our moral systems to reflect a consumer way of life.

After all, consumer values of convenience and flexibility (as opposed to commitment and durability) are neither sustainable nor ultimately satisfying. We would save fuel and materials if we bought more things to keep and take care of and fewer to use up, discard, and replace. And we would be happier if we focused on taking care of the people around us instead of focusing on what we can get out of them. We would benefit environmentally, socially, and spiritually if we rebuilt our society around caring rather than convenience—but it will be difficult to do so, because such a trade-off is as counter-culture today as they come.

If there’s hope to be found, it starts in the family.

Because it’s a sad family story that gave rise to our empty consumer values in the first place.

A Brief History of Our Throw-Away Mentality

My grandpa grew up on a farm in rural Punjab in the 1930s and ‘40s. The only manufactured goods in his family’s home were probably things like the wrought iron gate and the cloth their clothes were made of. My grandma grew up in Mexico and the western United States at the same time. She remembers an icebox, coal lamps, and even a gas-powered washing machine her mother used during the war years, but she didn’t live in a house with running water until she was almost an adult.

In their families’ cultural worlds, domestic work was highly valued. Neither women nor men had much free time, or freedom in the contemporary sense, but everyone knew the success and survival of the family depended on their contributions. And they knew they couldn’t afford to waste what few resources they had. There may not have been many luxuries, but there was a certain balance.

In the United States, the 1940s and ‘50s disrupted that balance. In the early ‘40s, many men went off to war, and many women supported the country by working in weapons factories. Their efforts paid off—the United States and its allies won the bloodiest conflict in history. When the men came back, women left their jobs to create employment opportunities for the men in those same factories, which were largely converted from producing weapons into producing goods that went into people’s homes.

At the time, people noticed and enjoyed a huge boom in economic innovation and production. Dishwashing and clothes drying machines, once limited largely to restaurants and hotels, became common in average homes. Canned foods, which had a long military history, began to catch on at the family dinner table. Leisure time increased for both men and women, and factory-produced television sets rose to meet the new need.

What people don’t seem to have consciously noticed or mourned at the time is how all this sudden factory involvement in the home affected the cultural value of domestic work. Because factory work had won the war and increased the comfort-level of home life, work away from home began to be seen as more valuable and important. Women who had felt the high of patriotic approval when they first worked in those factories may have missed the prestige—especially since average men could, for the first time in history, get away with asking average women what they had done all day, as if there were any doubt they’d been hard at work.

The declining cultural esteem for domestic work and the rising esteem for out-of-the-home work and leisure activities put women in an increasingly difficult situation of disrespect and alienation. And so, in the 1960s and ‘70s, many of them pushed for escape.

1960s and ‘70s feminists seem to have accepted the ‘40s and ‘50s notion that real progress and respect came through work outside the home, and determined to gain greater equality by increasing their access to that world. And who can blame them? Gradually, and against significant resistance, they secured a place for their gender in the sphere our society associated with prosperity and success.

But that transition came at a cost. We failed to understand that machines can reduce the amount of work humans do, but never eliminate the need for human care and attention—especially in the domestic sphere. Many women felt their energy and attention stretched to a breaking point as they struggled to be full contributors on both domestic and commercial fronts.

Eventually, something had to give. And in the 1980s and ‘90s, it was usually domestic work. Men and women built increasingly career-focused lives, and our broad attitude about domestic work was to minimize it through technology and trade. Processed food and even fast food became more and more prominent in our diets. The amount of time children spent being raised by machines increased drastically. Our consumer culture was firmly established.

In the 2000s and 2010s, the consensus that dual-income households are ideal remains strong. But the evidence is mounting that our society’s disregard for the domestic has made the society unstable. All our production of machine after machine is certainly polluting our air and there’s good evidence it’s begun to change the weather of the entire planet. With parents too busy to plan meals effectively and home-making skills still undervalued, Americans are throwing away an estimated 40% of their food, with significant economic and environmental costs. Studies suggest that lost family meal time is damaging the confidence and impulse control children need. And because parents often have more money than time, many children are being taught that most things can be replaced but not being taught effectively how to take care of things that are supposed to last. We’re in a positive feedback loop: the more we put our priorities around the marketplace rather than the home, the more the marketplace distorts the next generation’s priorities. The worse our consumer culture gets, the worse it is likely to become.

We are suffering from an increasingly urgent crisis of domesticity. And unless people can begin to take more interest in the role of adults as stewards in the home and family, we are going to over-produce and under-socialize our society into oblivion.

Mothers and Fathers for the 21st Century

People who are still caught in 1940s-‘50s attitudes about the value of domestic work often criticize “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” for its emphasis on the home and its advice in favor of older-sounding gender roles. These critics assume the Proclamation is trying to keep women out of the truly important work of inventing technologies and policies to solve our world’s problems. What a waste, they argue, if women are encouraged to focus on domestic work instead.

Criticism like this misses two key points:

1) The Proclamation serves to refocus both genders on the home. It doesn’t tell men to find meaning in their careers—it tells them to provide enough to support the family and to prioritize their responsibilities as fathers.

2) Most domestic work is far more helpful to society than most out-of-the-home work. This is particularly easy to see when you consider that many successful companies, like Coca-Cola, are built around products which appeal to people but do them more long-term harm than good. But even more useful out-of-the-home work rarely improves society as much as something as simple as cooking at home does.

By focusing both genders on home life, the Proclamation offers us a guide for building the sorts of families that can turn around a self-destructive consumer culture.

Proclamation-minded parents can:

-Turn around our food supply. By eating at home more and out less, Proclamation-minded parents can reduce packaging waste and fuel consumption while increasing health. By organizing their households well, they can avoid throwing so much uneaten food away. By supplementing groceries with garden produce, they can keep valuable skills alive and build local food values back into our culture. By sharing meal times, they can raise more grounded and confident children.

-Bring back durability as a value. Few companies are in the business of making durable products these days partly because few consumers expect it. We expect to use things up. We expect to throw things away rather than mending or fixing them. And as long as people stay focused on their work lives, that’s unlikely to change. But if parents can turn back toward the home, insist on better products, and take good care of them, we may see quality and durability rise and negative environmental impact fall.

-Make real neighborhoods possible again. People whose lives revolve around their workplace can easily begin to treat their houses as glorified hotel rooms. And while a hotel hallway can be a nice, quiet place to stay, you wouldn’t call it a neighborhood. As parents focus on their homes, their attention will also be closer to their neighborhood. And for children in particular, having neighborhoods with caring, attentive adults is far better than having empty streets because everyone is off doing work they think is important.

-Raise relationship-oriented children. Many modern parents emphasize success to their children. Others allow the media to socialize their children, largely into valuing consumption and self-satisfaction. But parents whose main priority is home life can help show their children the importance of relationships and can raise children who want to contribute more than they want to compete, and who want what is good for them and others rather than what simply feels good in the moment. And it’s children like these who can help turn the next generation around, and find a new kind of harmony for the society they help build.

Adapting to Individual Circumstance

Not everyone, of course, can immediately quit their job and focus on life at home. In some families, it may be necessary for both parents to work outside the home. In most families, the mother is better equipped with the complex skill set she’ll needs as she focuses full-time on the household and children, but in some families circumstances lead to a reversal of gender roles.

There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as we give full respect to work that contributes directly toward the home. We shouldn’t be considering who has the best career outlook, so much as how to arrange for the necessity of work in a way that focuses the maximum attention on family and home. The Family Proclamation can serve as beginning point by defining default obligations, and couples can move from those obligations with joint cooperation when needed.

But whatever our situation, whether of a mother at home and a family-focused father who works elsewhere to help provide or of a husband and wife still completing formal education and without children yet, there will be benefits for us and the society around us if we pay more attention to the simple decisions we make about and in our homes.

And if we follow the counsel of prophets in doing so, I believe we’ll be able to combat a consumer culture that threatens our spiritual health, our interpersonal relationships, and even the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Let’s work to build the kind of homes and families that can give us a better world.

James Goldberg is a celebrated "Caucajewmexdian" playwright and essayist, winner of a 1999 best-of-nine chess series with his little brother, pretty good cook, painfully slow dish-washer and shoe-tie-er, and a more or less decent human being.  

Check out more of James Goldberg's take on the world at his blog Mormon Midrashim...and read more about his new book 
"The Five Books of Jesus."

Be sure to check out today's other insightful posts about the Family Proclamation on the following blogs:

  Middle-agedMormonMan  diapersanddivinity
Continue reading... »

Saturday, September 29, 2012

At Long Last by Rozann Thoelke

A Proclamation to the World
When I set out to sew myself a new outfit, two important tools I use are a pattern and a tape measure.  I measure myself and then make adjustments in the pattern so the finished garment will fit my body; longer, shorter, wider, more narrow.  I make adjustments until I feel confident of a perfect fit.
This is similar to the process we should employ to fit ourselves to the standard our Heavenly Father has set for us.  He has given us the measurements for entrance into his kingdom.  We adjust ourselves to fit his pattern.  We stretch, shrink, cut off, or add to, as needed so our spirit’s control of our bodies’ measures up to his specifications.  It is neither fast nor easy, but a process that takes a lifetime of constant attention to gospel doctrines and commandments and our compliance to them.
Several years ago in another stake, a panel of knowledgeable Gospel enthusiasts were brought together for a fireside to discuss and debate gospel issues, in much the same format as a weekly panel discussion of current events shown on PBS.  I did not attend because I don’t believe it’s appropriate to debate gospel doctrines, issues or principles in that manner.  There are no compromises or concessions to be made so living the gospel is easier.  The Lord told Joseph Smith “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”  (D&C 1:38) We do not need to discuss doctrines that have not been fully revealed to us either.  When we lack understanding of gospel principles, personal study and prayer will reveal the mysteries of God to us.  “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things - that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42:61).
We have the word of the Lord through prophets, ancient and modern.  The only compromises in the gospel we should be making are on our side, wherein we change ourselves to fit the Lord’s standard through obedience to the commandments and the counsel of the prophet.  The Lord makes it clear what will happen to those who don’t follow the prophet.  “And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;” (D&C 1:14)
We have been told that of all the prophets that have ever lived the most important one to us is the one who is living now, speaking for the Lord now.  We are so blessed to live in the dispensation of the fullness of times, when we are led by a prophet though this “dark and dreary waste.” (1Ne.8:7)
One year ago [now 17 years ago] as preparations were made and reported on for the World’s Conference on Women in Beijing, China, we heard many voices clamoring for recognition, spouting slogans and demanding rights.  Listening to radio reports and reading the newspapers, I longed to hear what the prophet had to say about all this, knowing he would speak the truth as revealed from the Lord.
As the days went by and no statements were forthcoming I had a heavy heart and a thirst for the word of the Lord.  I kept a prayer in my heart that the Lord would make his will clearly known concerning these troubling issues.
Imagine then my feelings as I sat in the chapel for the General Relief Society Broadcast and listened to President Hinckley read The Family - A Proclamation to the World.  Tears of gratitude streamed down my face and I knew the Lord had answered the unexpressed longings of my heart.  Here was the bread of life for a world in the midst of a famine of the word of God; Living Water for a drought stricken people; a sword of truth to cut through the war of words.
We are truly blessed to have immediate access to this proclamation.  So far as I know the press in this area did not report on it or publish it.  You’ll notice that it is to the World, not just the church.  President Hinckley is the Prophet to the entire population on the world.  His responsibility, like Noah’s of old, is to proclaim truth to all of Heavenly Father’s children, however unpopular or politically incorrect that truth is. We who have taken upon ourselves gospel covenants are required to listen to the word of the Lord through his prophet and follow his instruction, counsel and guidance, molding our spirits and bodies to the standard pattern of the Lord.  “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3)
There is so much talk in the world about rights and so little about responsibilities.  But the world has things backwards, and that is one reason there are so many seemingly unsolvable problems.  When we take on duties and responsibilities first, the rights and privileges naturally follow.
We have received the greater light.  No longer are we in the dark about matters of gender, proper roles, or responsibilities. The prophets and apostles have spoken “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”  (D&C 68:4)  Now we have the opportunity to grow and change our lives to conform to this revealed truth.  One of the greatest stumbling blocks for us members of the church is that we like to think of ourselves as exceptions to the rule.  We rationalize and maneuver trying to fit the standards and commandments to us, when we should be using our energy to fit ourselves to the standards and commandments.  We will never be let into the Celestial Kingdom as an exception.  We will be let in only when we fully conform to the standards set for admittance by our Father in Heaven.  He said, “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” (D&C 78:7)
I urge you to read and study the Proclamation.  Prayerfully judge yourself against it.  See where you can improve.  Rejoice where you are in compliance.  The Proclamation was published in the November 1995 Ensign along with all the Relief Society Broadcast and October General Conference talks.  Do you receive the Ensign in your home?  If not, why not?  I’ve heard lots of excuses over the years.  The worst excuse is that we can’t afford it right now.  How much do we spend each month on magazines, newspapers and cable television to bring the words and deeds of everyone else into our homes?  Isn’t it worth it to spend the equivalent of about 84¢ each month to have access to the message from the First Presidency, as well as articles by apostles and prophets?  I hope that we can examine our lives and find that it is well worth it and take action to bring the words of truth and light into our homes for ourselves and our families.
As I listened to President Hinckley read the solemn proclamation as part of the General Relief Society Broadcast last fall my heart was filled with gratitude until I felt I would burst if I didn’t stand and sing at the top of my voice “We Thank Thee, O God, for A Prophet! To guide us in these latter days.”  (Hymns #19)
All that evening and the next day I had a prayer in my heart that I could find the words to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the blessings of the Truth.  Late Sunday evening as I was getting ready for bed, words began to take shape in my mind and I hurried to write them down.  (I keep a notebook and pencil on my bedside stand for that very purpose.)  I dedicated them to President Hinckley in gratitude for his leadership as our living prophet, seer, and revelator.
How blessed we are to have a guide,
A prophet of the Lord;
To lead us in these latter-days
Of famine, drought and sword.
With strident voices on all sides
He speaks a calming word,
To cheer us and encourage us.
The Lord, our prayers, has heard.
He calls to us “Repent from sin.”
And asks us to do more
To live the gospel in our homes,
Rich blessings are in store.
We pray that he will lead us in 
The path of righteousness.
He has not faltered, nor yet will.
Let’s follow and be blessed.
Brothers and sisters, I testify to you that God lives, he hears and answers our prayers.  We are led by a Prophet and will be greatly blessed for following him.  Jesus Christ is our Savior.  He should be our hero and his life of obedience our guide.  I love the gospel and my family.  I’m grateful to live at this time.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

  Rozann Thoelke was born and raised in San Diego, California; served a mission in Florida Tallahassee; is the mother, with her husband Steve, of one daughter and four sons. She's been a stay-at-home mom most of the time, homeschooling her children until her husband's job loss forced her into the workforce for two years. It's easier to list the church jobs she hasn't had so we'll just say she's served all over the place. 

For the most part Rozann is pretty much just one of the anonymous thousands of mothers throughout the world with two exceptions, in 1995 she had a story published in The Friend magazine and in 2005 she had the fabulous privilege of speaking at BYU Women's Conference, which proves that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us and our hopes and dreams. She now lives in a tiny little town in Iowa, mothering the two remaining sons at home and keeping up with the three adult children living away from home. She reads and writes, cooks and sews, quilts and gardens, and dabbles in lots of other things.

Be sure to check out today's other insightful posts about the Family Proclamation on the following blogs:

  Middle-agedMormonMan  diapersanddivinity
Continue reading... »

Friday, September 28, 2012

Leave the Judgment at Home by Serene Heiner

“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”

In October of 2011, I stood in the Washington D.C. temple to witness the sealing of one of my older brothers. Directly after the sealing, my dad asked all eight of us children to gather together. We sat down and looked around at each other. Seven of the eight of us were now sealed in the temple, with my youngest brother, newly endowed, getting ready to leave on his mission. 

My parents looked at us in tears. Finally my dad found his voice and said, “I have dreamed of this day; the day when all my children would be gathered together in the temple. This is what we have prayed and worked so hard for. My heart is full.”

Not long after, I recalled a conversation I had with mom a while back. 

One day, a sister had come to her very upset. As she unloaded all of her problems, my mom tried to offer comfort and said, “I understand”.

At this point, the sister became very angry and started shouting at her, “You don’t understand anything! How could you? You with your perfect life, you could never understand anything that I’m going through!”

I suppose you may have been thinking the same thing as I described that one brief scene with my family in the temple.

But what if I were to tell you, that my mom, who is a convert to the church, was raised by an abusive mother, both physically and mentally. 

Her dearest and closest friend was killed in a car accident when she was in high school. 

Later she married her high school boyfriend who had been unfaithful to her before they were married, and continued to be so after.  After four years of marriage to him, she believed she couldn’t have children, especially after he got another woman pregnant.  She had learned that the rumors about her husband were indeed true when she caught him in a room at a friend's home.

At this point she took a closer look at the gospel. When she decided to join the church, her family ridiculed and mocked her openly and publicly. She had no support from family or former friends, except for the one couple who brought her into the church.

She finalized her divorce during that time and as a new convert, discovered how easy it is for people to develop prejudicial attitudes based on preconceived notions of divorced individuals. 

Three years later she served a mission where she met my father. One week after she returned home and was released from her mission, they were sealed in the temple, without family support on either side. For you see, my dad was a convert as well.

I could go on and on since this merely covers her younger years, but I’ll stop there.

You see, my mom did understand.

There is a popular saying by Pluto: “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

How easy life makes it to forget that we each have a divine nature and a divine destiny.

My father too had to rise above an incredibly difficult past. But that's a story for another day.

3 Nephi 14:1-2 “ And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.
 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

Now, if we were to be completely honest here, we would all have to admit to passing unfair judgment upon someone else. It’s simply human nature!

But we usually only see a mere fraction of one’s life or a brief glimpse of a person’s situation. Nor can we ever fully understand a person’s temperament, their strengths or weaknesses, their personalities, or the trials they have had to endure. 

Only the Savior can do that. Because, through the atonement, he suffered each individual’s conditions even before the person suffered. This he did to enable him to “succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)

So for heaven’s sake, leave the judging to Him. “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.” 

It is incredible to think that despite the hardships both my parents had to go through, they are without a doubt amazing and goodly parents who refused to let their past define them. They speak often of how it was and is through the gospel and the atonement of Jesus Christ that they were able to move on, forgive, and rise above their past.

“HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

Let it go. Let all the other stuff go. Your family is worth fighting for, it is worth protecting.

The trials in this life will come to each of us in time. Whether it’s early in our lives, or later, whether they pound us all at once, or are spread throughout our whole existence.

“So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.” ~ Jeffery R. Holland

Serene is a highly imperfect mom of five children (born within 6.5 years) who blogs humorously about all her parenting misadventures at Serene is my name, Not my life! She also has a severe chocolate addiction and likes to pretend she's stylish enough to wear high heels.

Be sure to check out today's other insightful posts about the Family Proclamation on the following blogs:

  Middle-agedMormonMan  diapersanddivinity
Continue reading... »

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Serving Your Spouse and Family by Jessica Clark

The Importance of Serving Your Spouse and Family

I have always been a big family person, maybe it's because I'm the youngest of nine children that when I got married to my husband I was excited to start our new family. After just a few months of our marriage we found out we were expecting and we couldn't have been more excited. Our first year of our marriage Dustin, my husband, was the center of my life and I had a lot more time to do activities with him and serve him, that it was so easy to be so in love with him. Than when our little boy came along, my time with Dustin seemed to disappear and I seemed a little more on edge and I noticed our relationship had change, not in a bad way, but it did change. Everything seemed harder, I got frustrated easier, and noticed that if something went wrong I was quick to blame my husband.

One late night while I was rocking our little boy, I was thinking how much I loved this little boy and that I had a better understanding of our Heavenly Father's love for us. I also thought how crazy it was that this little boy just barely entered my life and I loved him so much. Than I asked myself why is that? I mean that little boy is a lot of work, I had lost a lot of hours of sleep, my body was never going to be the same, and I was constantly taking care of him. 

Then I realized what it was, it was because I was consistently serving him, that I put his needs over mine. I don't know where I heard this, but somewhere I heard that if you want to love someone you need to serve them. That's when I noticed that I hadn't served my husband for a while. 

When I take some time to serve my husband I can tell a difference in our marriage. Also when I serve him, he tends to do the same so it's a win win situation! 

I will admit I'm not always good about serving my husband because I sometimes say to myself that I'm too tired after a day running around with my little boy, but when I do something little extra it can make a huge difference.

It is very important to serve our children but I think sometimes as a parent we forget about our spouse when they should be just as or even more important. Our spouse is our partner in life, and we believe that we can't get to the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom without our spouse, so we need to serve that person more than ever.

A perfect example of service and unconditional love is our Savior.  Because of him my sins can be forgiven and I can return to my Heavenly Father one day. He made the greatest sacrifice that no man has done, so I can't imagine the love he has for all of us.

I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be a parent and wife.  It's has taught be to be selfless and the importance of service. It has made me a better person and gives me a better understanding of Heavenly Father's love for me. I know that if we serve our family and others, we will be happier and be full of love.

Jessica Clark was born and raised most of her life in Rexburg, Idaho. She met her husband, Dustin while they both were getting their Illustration degrees at Brigham Young University- Idaho. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on December 22, 2009.  A year later, in November 2010, their son Thomas joined their family.  They are now expecting baby #2 this coming January.  Jessica spends time being a homemaker and a mother while doing illustration and photography on the side.  She is the illustrator of “God Gave You a Body”.

The giveaway this week is a gift certificate from Family Tree and Me redeemable for any of their Photo Family Proclamations, including the shipping cost. Readers of the Family Proclamation Celebration can receive a 25% discount off the price of the print if you use this code:  Family Proclamation Celebration.25 The discount is good until September 30th. All those comment on posts will be eligible for the giveaway. Family Tree and Me delights in creating customized keepsake family photo art and would love the opportunity to make a meaningful art piece for you to display in your home. You provide the pictures and we create the art! We have four categories of art with a variety of options available within each one: Photo Family Trees, Photo Family Proclamations, Missionary Photo Art, and Photo Family Mission Statements.

Be sure to check out today's other insightful posts about the Family Proclamation on the following blogs:


Continue reading... »

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Made to Fit by Dennis Gaunt

“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God . . . the family is central to

the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

God, the greatest designer and engineer of all, does not work by chance or by

accident. He works according to a divine plan, a celestial schematic that is designed to

bring happiness to His children. This plan involves each of us gaining a physical body

and learning to exercise agency properly by keeping His commandments. We chose to

come to this life in order that we might progress and become like Him, and that includes

marriage and families. “Simply summarized,” as Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “the

earth was created that families might be.” (1)

The word “create” itself means “to organize”, to bring order out of chaos, to make

sense out of senselessness. (2)   The Creation was and is literally the process of combining

and organizing otherwise separate things to make them greater than the sum of their

parts. When God gets involved, things get organized and make much more sense than if

they were left to themselves. This principle applies not only on a planetary scale, but on a

personal one as well. The creation of man and woman was, therefore, not an accident, but

an absolutely essential element of the Creator’s plan.

And so it was, that following the organization of this earth, complete with lights,

atmosphere, land, water, plants and animals, “God created man in his own image”

(Genesis 1:27) and placed him in the Garden of Eden.

One of the very first things Adam did while he was in the Garden was to name all

the animals. The Lord brought them to Adam and asked him what they would be called.

As this wildlife parade continued, I have to imagine that Adam began to notice two

important things. The first thing he must have noticed was that God was bringing each of

these animals in pairs. He would bring in two lions, for instance, and Adam noticed that

one lion was a bit bigger than the other, and had a bushy mane. The other lion was a little

smaller, a little more petite, and—if it was anything like how the comic strip The Far

Side imagined things like this—she was wearing lipstick, pearls, and little horn-rimmed

The second thing Adam began to notice was that none of these animals looked

like him. They were not part of his species. “But for Adam, there was not found an help

meet for him” (Moses 3:20). So shortly after the last two zebras went trotting happily

away, I imagine that Adam looked around and asked, “Is that it? What about me? Where

is my companion? Where is the other part of my species?”

The Lord, of course, had all this in mind and under control “And I, the Lord God,

said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that man should be alone; wherefore,

I will make an help meet for him” (Moses 3:18). Thus, God embarked on what President

Gordon B. Hinckley referred to as the crowning act of divinity—the creation of woman. (3)

The words “help meet” to describe the creation of Eve are highly instructive. The

Hebrew word that “help” is translated from means to aid, to support, to surround, to

envelop, to protect. Women, by their divine nature, do exactly those things, from being

an aid and support to their husbands to quite literally surrounding, enveloping, and

protecting children during pregnancy. These traits apply in a much broader sense as well

to the family and home. To be a woman, it seems to me, is to be a protector in every

divine sense of the word.

“Meet” also has important connotations. It means to fulfill or satisfy a need. It is

something that is necessary, required, or essential—all of which speak to the glory of

women and their divine natures. But my favorite definition comes from the Middle

English root of the word—which William Tyndale, the English translator of the Bible

would have chosen to use—and means “made to fit.” Men and women were created as

complementary opposites, designed to fill one another’s physical, emotional, and

spiritual needs and, quite literally and in a very sacred sense, made to fit one another.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the Proclamation on the Family

says, “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed

only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

Which brings us to one of the most touching moments ever recorded in scripture.

Following the creation of Eve, God brings her to Adam, the same as He had done with

every other living thing. But this time, Adam looks at her and says, “This I know now is

bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Moses 3:23, emphasis added).

In other words, Adam is saying, “I know her. I recognize her. She looks like me. She is part of my race and my species. She and I belong together.” Finally, after witnessing that seemingly endless parade of happily paired-up animals, Adam is no longer alone. And with Eve at his side, the two can now begin their journey of progression according to God’s plan.

As with every other aspect of the Creation, God has gotten involved and has

brought together two separate elements—a man and a woman—and combined them and

organized them into something greater than the sum of their parts, something greater than

they could ever be alone, a synergy of the highest order: a family.

In the October 1993 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer told the

following parable, which I believe beautifully illustrates all these ideas:

“Once a man received as his inheritance two keys. The first key, he was told,

would open a vault which he must protect at all cost. The second key was to a safe within

the vault which contained a priceless treasure. He was to open this safe and freely use the

precious things which were stored therein. He was warned that many would seek to rob

him of his inheritance. He was promised that if he used the treasure worthily, it would be

replenished and never be diminished, not in all eternity. He would be tested. If he used it

to benefit others, his own blessings and joy would increase.

“The man went alone to the vault. His first key opened the door. He tried to

unlock the treasure with the other key, but he could not, for there were two locks on the

safe. His key alone would not open it. No matter how he tried, he could not open it. He

was puzzled. He had been given the keys. He knew the treasure was rightfully his. He

had obeyed instructions, but he could not open the safe.

“In due time, there came a woman into the vault. She, too, held a key. It was

noticeably different from the key he held. Her key fit the other lock. It humbled him to

learn that he could not obtain his rightful inheritance without her.

“They made a covenant that together they would open the treasure and, as

instructed, he would watch over the vault and protect it; she would watch over the

treasure. She was not concerned that, as guardian of the vault, he held two keys, for

his full purpose was to see that she was safe as she watched over that which was most

precious to them both. Together they opened the safe and partook of their inheritance.

They rejoiced for, as promised, it replenished itself.

“With great joy they found that they could pass the treasure on to their children;

each could receive a full measure, undiminished to the last generation.

“Perhaps some few of their posterity would not find a companion who possessed

the complementary key, or one worthy and willing to keep the covenants relating to the

treasure. Nevertheless, if they kept the commandments, they would not be denied even

“Because some tempted them to misuse their treasure, they were careful to teach

their children about keys and covenants.

“There came, in due time, among their posterity some few who were deceived

or jealous or selfish because one was given two keys and another only one. ‘Why,’ the

selfish ones reasoned, ‘cannot the treasure be mine alone to use as I desire?’

“Some tried to reshape the key they had been given to resemble the other key.

Perhaps, they thought, it would then fit both locks. And so it was that the safe was closed

to them. Their reshaped keys were useless, and their inheritance was lost.

“Those who received the treasure with gratitude and obeyed the laws concerning

it knew joy without bounds through time and all eternity.”

Dennis Gaunt is a guy who loves the scriptures, and has for as long as he can remember. He served in the New Zealand Auckland mission, studied history and English literature at the University of Utah, and currently teaches institute in the Salt Lake area. He and his wife, Natalie, have been married for eleven wonderful years, and she keeps him out of trouble on a daily basis. He is a Deseret Book author ofBad Guys of the Book of Mormon, Feeding Consuela (a talk on CD), and an e-book called Beware of Dogs: Seriously. He enjoys photography, playing the guitar, cooking, and really lame sci-fi movies--the cheesier, the better!

{References: 1 - Russell M. Nelson, Hope In Our Hearts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009), 54.
2 - See Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding
Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 350–52.
3 - See Gordon B. Hinckley [need title], Ensign, November 1995, ?}

Now - Please join us for the final blog hop of the celebration...share your photos or photo essays about The Family Proclamation by entering your link below: 

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