As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints firmly we know that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”1 As I have studied Russell M. Nelson’s words concerning the doctrine of marriage and family, which was August’s doctrinal topic, I am grateful for his wise counsel and his prophetic teachings.
President Nelson once said, “Marriage is protected by an absolute commitment to make it successful.”2 In his first BYU Devotional address in 1974 his example of an absolute commitment to his marriage and family is clear. He said, “I cannot seek the kingdom of God without loving and honoring first that family he has given to me. I cannot honor that family without loving and caring first for my wife! I love her. She is my highest priority, and our eternal marriage in the temple is our highest commitment. We love our children and their children born and yet unborn. This love we are building in the sanctuary of our home. Here is where we have learned the power of love, and I testify that it is a real, dynamic, all-encompassing power!”3
He has also referred to “the home [as] the great laboratory of love.”4 One daughter said that when her father was at home, he was 100% at home. His wife and children knew they were loved! What a wonderful example President Nelson is of one who is a loving, committed husband and father!
Here are a few things he has taught over the years that we can do to be more loving and committed in our family relationships:
“Family life will provide your most enduring rewards. As partners, you and your spouse will work together to achieve mutual goals and enjoy the fruits of your labors. … There is great power in a strong partnership. True partners can achieve more than the sum of each acting alone. With true partners, one plus one is much more than two. In marriage, a husband and wife can form the most significant partnership of all—an eternal family. … Great partners are completely loyal. They suppress personal ego in exchange for being part of creating something larger than themselves. Great partnerships are dependent upon each individual developing his or her own personal attributes of character.”5
“Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage from the Lord. In such a family we study the scriptures and pray together. And we fix our focus on the temple. There we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for His faithful children.”6
“Marriage—especially temple marriage—and family ties involve covenant relationships. They cannot be regarded casually. With divorce rates escalating throughout the world today, it is apparent that many spouses are failing to endure to the end of their commitments to each other. And some temple marriages fail because a husband forgets that his highest and most important priesthood duty is to honor and sustain his wife. The best thing that a father can do for his children is to ‘love their mother.’”7
During one particular stake conference, President Nelson reminded the women of the power they have to make a substantial difference in their husbands’ lives. One of the things he told them was, “A man’s perception of his own worth can be shaped by his wife’s attitude.” Another was, “With the help of the Lord and a supportive wife, a man can do infinitely more than he could ever do without that support.” To the men, he counseled, “Your highest priesthood duty is to care for your wife. That is an eternal charge entrusted to you. …The best thing you can do for your children is to love and care for their mother. Let that love show. … Help her to achieve the full measure of her creation. Help her to realize her divine destiny—with you!”8
“You and your companion should resolve never, never to make uncomplimentary comments about one another to anyone at anytime. Good habit patterns are best established during your courtship. Never stoop to demeaning words that hurt. Together, resolve now to make of your home a place of prayer. Make it a sanctuary of faith where servants of the Lord are always welcome and where scriptures are read and discussed together. You will both want to grow in true spiritual symmetry.”9
Last year he once again asked us to transform our homes into sanctuaries of faith. He promised if we would “diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, … the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease.”10
In a recent Instagram post President Nelson said, “Our families are meant to help us in our individual efforts to become more like Jesus Christ. Thanks to God’s great plan of happiness, families can stay together forever. Exaltation is a family affair!”11
Just as he has taught us the importance of making our marriage and family a priority, President Nelson has also reminded us of our responsibility to defend this doctrine. Here are a few of his proclamations defending the doctrine of marriage and family. They are powerful!
“Marriage and family are ordained of God. The family is the most important social unit in time and in eternity. Under God’s great plan of happiness, families can be sealed in temples and be prepared to return to dwell in His holy presence forever. That is eternal life! It fulfills the deepest longings of the human soul—the natural yearning for endless association with beloved members of one’s family.”12
“There is spiritual safety in the circle of the family—the basic unit of society. The family is a sacred institution. The gospel was restored to the earth and the Church exists to exalt the family. The earth was created that each premortal spirit child of God might have this mortal experience, gain a physical body, choose a companion, form a family, and have that family sealed eternally in a temple of the Lord. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted. Scriptures stress that doctrine time and time again.”13
In an address given at the 2009 World Congress of Families V, President Nelson declared, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with the companionship between a husband and a wife. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can provide the joy and growth that come from happy children who make a family circle. Throughout my life, I have answered to many titles, including doctor, captain, professor, and elder. But the titles I revere most are those of husband, father, and grandfather.
“On all sides, the family is under attack. Many wonder if the institution is no longer needed. Our response is certain. If there is any hope for the future of nations, that hope resides in the family. Our children are our wealth; our children are our strength; our children are indeed our future!
“In the past 50 years, the birthrate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. … What would happen to the future of nations if the next generation failed to appear in significant numbers? The answer is alarming! Yes, we would be poorer economically, but even poorer spiritually.
“Spiritual concerns are of great importance. Spiritually, we need children as much as they need us. They are our spiritual wealth. Children teach us the joy of building goodness that will outlive our own. They teach us the joy of loving someone more than self. That love lifts one to give from the abundance of one’s own life to help a child. …
“Future happiness and even the future of nations is linked to children. Families with children need to be re-enthroned as the fundamental unit of society. We simply must value children more than we do! Without a new generation to replace the old, there is no wealth; without families, there is no future.”14
His boldness in defending the family is extraordinary. He has encouraged such boldness in us as members of the Church. “In the Church, we stress the significance of marriage, children, and the family because we know the doctrine. And we … know that the adversary incessantly aims attacks at the family. In the past fifty years the birth rate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. Marriages are being postponed until later in life, and families are getting smaller, even in the Church. Our task to defend the family is not an easy one. Trends in the world diminish the significance of the family. … In reality, we are raising our children in enemy-occupied territory. The homes of our members must become the primary sanctuaries of our faith, where each can be safe from the sins of the world. Our Master depends upon us to live according to His truth. … Marriage is ordained of God. It is doctrinally based and eternally significant.”15
President Nelson has warned, “God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued”16 and has given us a charge to be defenders of marriage. “You will likely encounter increasing debate about the definition of marriage. Many of your neighbors, colleagues, and friends will have never heard logical and inspired truths about the importance of marriage as God Himself defined it. You will have many opportunities to strengthen understanding of the Lord’s side of that argument by the eloquence of your examples, both as individuals and as families.”5
He has also warned that opposition will come. “Life will not be comfortable for true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. … Each of us will be put to the test. … The day is gone when you can be a quiet and comfortable Christian. Your religion is not just about showing up for church on Sunday. It is about showing up as a true disciple from Sunday morning through Saturday night—24/7! There is no such thing as a ‘part-time’ disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus invited anyone who wants to be His disciple to take up His cross and follow Him. Are you ready to join the ranks? Or will you be ashamed of the gospel? Will you be ashamed of your Lord and His plan? Will you yield to voices of those who would have you join them on the popular side of contemporary history? No! … Be courageous and proclaim God’s truth with clarity and kindness, even when His truth is politically unpopular! … Disciples of the Lord are defenders of marriage. We cannot yield. History is not our judge. A secular society is not our judge. God is our judge! For each of us, Judgment Day will be held in God’s own way and time. The future of marriage and of countless human lives will be determined by your willingness to bear solemn witness of the Lord and live according to His gospel.”5
For many of us, we never had to teach our children that God’s pattern of marriage is between a man and a woman because that was how marriage was defined everywhere. There was nothing pushing against that doctrine. But for young families now, their children will grow up with different alternatives being accepted and normalized. It will be even more important to follow the prophet who has taught that it is “God … who ordained marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Marriage was not created by human judges or legislators. It was not created by think tanks or by popular vote or by oft-quoted bloggers or by pundits. It was not created by lobbyists. Marriage was created by God! … Social and political pressures to change marriage laws are resulting in practices contrary to God’s will regarding the eternal nature and purposes of marriage. Man simply cannot make moral what God has declared to be immoral. Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God.”5
While asking for boldness, President Nelson also counsels us to be Christlike in our actions toward others. He continues, “Undergirded by incontrovertible truth, proclaim your love for God! Proclaim your love for all human beings ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all.’ They as children of God are our brothers and sisters. We value their rights and feelings. But we cannot condone efforts to change divine doctrine. It is not for man to change. … The burden of discipleship is heavy. As disciples of the Lord you will stand as defenders of marriage. And as you are true and faithful, not only will He help you and protect you, He will bless your families.”5
How grateful I am to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose doctrine on the family brings me incredible peace in this life and gives me reassuring hope for the eternities. My family is the greatest blessing in my life! How grateful I am for our prophet and his marvelous example. May we follow him in living and defending the glorious doctrine of marriage and family.
2. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, page 203
3. Four Lessons From One Life – Russell M. Nelson
4. Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women – Russell M. Nelson
5. Disciples of Jesus Christ–Defenders of Marriage – Russell M. Nelson
6. Salvation and Exaltation – Russell M. Nelson
7. Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson
8. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 199–200
9. Reflection and Resolution – Russell M. Nelson
10. Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints – Russell M. Nelson
11. Instagram Post, LDS Living Article
12. Thanks Be To God – Russell M. Nelson
13. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, page 114
14. The Family: The Hope for the Future of Nations – Russell M. Nelson
15. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 201-202
16. Decisions for Eternity – Russell M. Nelson