Home: The Place to Save Society
January 1975

“Home: The Place to Save Society,” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 3

First Presidency Message


The Place to Save Society

From an address given at the Stockholm, Sweden. Area Conference, August 1974

Brothers and sisters and friends: These are turbulent times. The newspapers give front page coverage to ever-increasing acts of violence and magazines devote pages to the growing menace. Such stories are revolting in their worldliness and debauchery—reminding us that there shall be a day of reckoning, as the prophet said, “… If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind. …” (Mosiah 7:30.)

The prophet Nephi looked forward to these last days and made some remarkable predictions:

“For behold, at that day shall he [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good,

“… And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Ne. 28:20–21.)

Then he warns, “… Wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! …” (2 Ne. 28:28.)

Can it be arrested? Can we turn the tide and bring back decency and order out of chaos?

The answer is yes—a positive, stentorian YES. But the solution is not easy. If it could be solved with money, people would tax themselves to curb it. If penal or correctional institutions would suffice, a great building program would be initiated. If additional social workers could prevail, universities would add courses in social work. If courts and judges, attorneys and policemen, prisons and penitentiaries could stop the onrush of delinquency, such institutions would be dotted over all the land. But such means only salve it over temporarily, effecting no permanent cure.

However, the Lord has given us a plan, within our capacity to follow, but ignored by the masses because it requires that sacrifice and dedication that men are reluctant to give.

The scriptures outline this effective program:

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Abr. 5:18.)

“… thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife; nor seek thy neighbor’s life.” (D&C 19:25.)

“… attend to all family duties.” (D&C 20:47.)

Bring up your children “… in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4.)

In 1833 the Lord warned through his prophet, “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” (D&C 93:39.)

And then he offered the solution, “But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.” (D&C 93:40.)

The spirit of the times is worldliness. Hoodlumism is common. Supposedly good youth from recognized good families express their revolt in destructive acts. Many defy and resist the law-enforcing officers. Respect for authority, secular, religious, and political, seems to be at a low ebb. Immorality, drug addiction, and general moral and spiritual deterioration seem to be increasing, and the world is in turmoil. But in our time the Lord has offered his ageless program in new dress and it gives promise to return the world to sane living, to true family life, family interdependence. It is to return the father to his rightful place at the head of the family, to bring mother home from social life and employment, the children away from unlimited fun and frolic. The home teaching program with its crowning activity, the family home evening will neutralize the ill effects only if people will apply the remedy.

An early American prophet said, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; … yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore, I make a record. …” (1 Ne. 1:1.)

This young historian, having been taught of his father, had a great desire to know the will of God, the purpose of life, and to persuade men to come to Christ.

He further declared, “… I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father. …” (1 Ne. 2:16.)

In the divine scheme, every soul has been given a father whose responsibility it is not only to sire and provide the necessities of life but also to train for mortality and life eternal.

Undoubtedly Sariah cooperated with Lehi, but it was the father who called his family together to teach them righteousness.

The teachings of the children by the fathers is basic from the beginning; the Lord ordained it so.

Though Enos had strayed for a time, the teachings of his father prevailed and he returned to worthiness.

Enos records:

“… I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me … in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it. …” (Enos 1:1.)

“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.” (Enos 1:2–3.)

It is apparent that Enos received his greatest inspiration and training from his own faithful father. And the teachings were frequent and powerful concerning eternal life.

He was deeply impressed, for he said these teachings from his own father sunk into his heart—so deep, so impressive, that now, when conviction of his errors pressed down upon him, he was ready to pay a heavy price for forgiveness.

The supplication of Enos is written with a pen of anguish on the paper of faith and with a willingness to totally prostrate himself that he might receive forgiveness. His words are mighty and definitive. He could have said merely, “I wanted information.” But he said, “… my soul hungered. …” He could have merely prayed unto the Lord as so many pray, but in his eagerness for forgiveness, he said, “… I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul. …” (Enos 1:4.)

How impressive his words! “Mighty prayer and supplication” is not the usual prayer. The Lord’s agonies in Gethsemane, so long, so earnest, were mighty prayers.

When he asked, “Lord, how is it done?” the answer came: “… Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. …” (Enos 1:7–8.) What faith! And what was the source of this great sureness except from home and parents?

Would that every child in the Church could bear the same testimony of his father as Enos did: “… I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints. …” (Enos 1:3.)

In the Lord’s program for families, the parents, and especially the father, will teach the children. And it is available to the people of the world regardless of the church to which they might belong. It provides a formal meeting and a planned program and consistent teaching of the gospel of Christ with participation in the reading of the scriptures and in the program by the children and parents. Each child has his own scriptures. The organizational teachings may complement the home teaching.

King Benjamin, from his elevated platform, appealed to the parents:

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin. …

“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.)

Isaiah, too, pleads, commands, and promises: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isa. 54:13.)

In the command of Moses to the wanderers, certainly there were the elements of home teaching:

“And these words … shall be in thine heart:

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6–7.) Certainly here was family worship.

One of the most provocative and profound statements in holy writ is Paul’s instruction to husbands and wives concerning their duty to each other and to family. First he commands the women:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.

“For the husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: And he is the saviour of the body.

“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (Eph. 5:22–24.)

This is no idle jest, no facetious matter. Much is said in Paul’s words: “… as unto the Lord.”

A woman need have no fear of being imposed upon or of any dictatorial measures or of any improper demands when the husband is self-sacrificing and worthy. Certainly no intelligent woman would hesitate to give submission to her own truly righteous husband in everything. We are sometimes shocked to see the wife take over the leadership, naming the one to pray, the place to be, the things to do.

Husbands are commanded: “… love your wives, even as Christ also loveth the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25.)

Christ loved the church and its people so much that he voluntarily endured persecution for them, suffered humiliating indignities for them, stoically withstood pain and physical abuse for them, and finally gave his precious life for them.

When the husband is ready to treat his household in that manner, not only the wife but all the family will respond to his leadership.

Certainly if fathers are to be respected, they must merit respect—if they are to be loved, they must be consistent, lovable, understanding, and kind, and they must honor their priesthood.

President Stephen L Richards, formerly of the First Presidency, stated in a conference address, “They [the women of the Church] know that that priesthood has true virtue within it—the power to bless, the power to heal, the power to counsel, to make peace and harmony prevail.” (Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, April 1958, p. 95.)

What great incentives the mother has to honor and build up her worthy husband in the esteem of the offspring when she knows that this contributes to the well-adjusted lives of her children! And what a great incentive the father has for rising to his tallest stature to merit the love and respect of all members of his family!

And so we plead with the fathers to return to their little kingdoms and, with kindness, justice, and proper discipline, to inspire—and we appeal to mothers to help to create—that happy family relationship.

In the great home teaching program and family home evenings, the responsibilities lie first and properly on the head of the father. The wife will assist. What true father would shirk this great privilege? What father would shift the planning, organizing, and conducting of such family programs? What dutiful father would evade this teaching opportunity and responsibility?

Nephi credited his father with his training. The words Enos had heard his father often speak stirred him to a soul-hungering which brought him to his knees for an all-day, all-night communication with his Maker. Each of their fathers had fulfilled their responsibilities. But we also see where the scriptures condemn men and women when they fail to do their duty.

The Lord punished the temple worker, Eli, charging him with the serious sins of his sons.

And the Lord whispered through Samuel:

“… I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house. …

“Because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam. 3:12–13.)

In modern times the Lord said:

“Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness. …” (D&C 68:31.)

He counseled Frederick G. Williams:

“… you have continued under this condemnation. …

“You have not taught your children light and truth … and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.

“… if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.” (D&C 93:41–43.)

Turning to Sidney Rigdon, the Lord charges: “… in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children; therefore, first set in order thy house.” (D&C 93:44.)

And then the Lord broadened his admonition to include all of us:

“What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.” (D&C 93:49.)

How sad if the Lord should charge any of us parents with having failed to teach our children! Truly a tremendous responsibility falls upon a couple when they bring children into the world. They must provide not only food, clothing, and shelter, but also loving, kind discipline and teaching.

I wonder what this world could be like if every father and mother gathered their children around them at least once a week and explained the gospel and bore fervent testimonies to them.

Of course, there are a few disobedient souls regardless of training and teaching, but the great majority of children would respond to such parental guidance.

Had Israel’s fathers and mothers done their full duty to their children, would Palestinian forests have vanished, their hills been denuded? Would they have been slain by their enemies? Would their power have been broken, their heaven made as iron, their earth as brass? Would hunger have stalked the land? Would mothers have devoured their children? Would the people have again been taken in bondage?

Had every father in Babylon, assisted by the mother, taught and trained little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, would that great city have been covered with sand and its corruption buried in the earth, its springs dried up, its temples toppled? Would drunken revelry have lulled them to an awareness of their danger? Would palms and willows have withered and would lands be dried and desolate? Would Babylon have become a hiss and a byword and would the wolf and the jackal, the owl and doleful creatures be its only inhabitants, and the shepherd and the Arabian avoid the haunted place?

Had every Roman father been teaching his sons righteousness instead of war, and every mother making a home for her children; had all parents assembled their children in their homes instead of the circuses and public baths; had they taught them chastity and honor and integrity and cleanness; would Rome still be a world power? Certainly it was not the barbarians from the north but the insidious moral termites within that destroyed the Roman world empire.

Had the parents of the world from Adam down carried on their home teaching, their home evenings, their home togetherness, and sweet family life as ordained by the Lord, would there have been a world deluge, a Tower of Babel, a Sodom and Gomorrah? Would the streets of Samaria ever have been plowed or the walls of Jerusalem leveled? Would there be Oriental and Occidental enemies today establishing military bases, accumulating ammunition, inventing missiles, preparing nuclear weapons? Would they be crouching like cats after mice, waiting for the rotting process to develop to the point of no return? Would increasing delinquency and rebellion cause them to wait while the progressing, softening illness would make that death inevitable?

In our own dispensation the Lord reiterated his basic command to those who brought children into the world:

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, … that teach them not … the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion. …” (D&C 68:25–26.)

“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:28.)

Home life, home teaching, parental guidance is the remedy for all ailments, a cure for all diseases, a solution to all problems.

And in our lands, if the home teaching by local leaders, crowned by the home evenings with father and mother enthroned, were the rule in Zion, would not taverns be closed, gambling dens be boarded up, licentiousness near eliminated, hoodlumism terminated, jails reduced, and penitentiaries limited?

Would we not be safe to walk in dark places and eliminate locks from our doors and enforcement officers from our streets if men and women returned home?

Oh, my brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of God, the members of Christ’s church, the people of all religious affiliations, the people of all nations, let us take this general panacea and heal our wounds and immunize our children against evil by the simple process of teaching and training them in the way of the Lord. Every father and mother in Zion, and every Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Mohammedan, and all other parents have the same responsibility: to teach their children to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord!

Today we have many mothers who leave their children to go to work in business, teaching, or other occupations. Some mothers are required to work away from home, but many do so through choice. Because they have hired a babysitter for their little ones, their consciences seem to have cleared. May I read a letter written by an employed babysitter to the mother who left her children voluntarily:

“Dear Mrs. __________,

“While you work outside your home, I have been caring for your two small children. They are sweet, but rather trying at times, displaying the same jealousies and hostilities found in most siblings.

“I am well paid, but this is just a job with me, and I cannot give your children the same affection I gave my own children when they were small. I am hired help—not their mother.

“Your children resent the fact that you leave them all day. They seem to sense that you are gone from them because you want to be, not because you have to be.

“It is obvious that your husband has provided you with all the material things your heart desires, but you prefer to ‘work’ because your ‘job’ offers more excitement than your role as a mother.

“One day you may become bored with the ‘business world’ and decide to return home and raise your children. And if you do, I hope it won’t be too late.”

“Substitute Mother”

The governor of a state with two million inhabitants recognized the activities of a minority who were members of the Church and practiced home evenings and taught their children, and sent to me in June a proclamation recognizing such a wholesome activity on the part of his tens of thousands and recommending to his hundreds of thousands the same consideration:

“Whereas, the family is the basic and indispensable institution of our society … and

“Whereas, we are observing in our nation a breaking up of family life at a rate unprecedented in history, with serious effects and repercussions in many segments of our society, particularly the welfare of children and the weakening of the single greatest strength of America; and

“Whereas, there is increasing concern among all thinking Americans over the dissolution of Family Life and the effects such destruction portends for our nation;

“Whereas, prominent religious leaders have said; ‘No Success Can Compensate For Failure In the Home’ and ‘The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do Is Within The Walls of Your Own Home;’

“Now, therefore, I, Jack Williams, Governor of Arizona, do hereby proclaim the week beginning Sunday, June 2, 1974, as

Family Week

and do call upon all serious and right-thinking Americans to reflect upon the meaning of Family Life to themselves, to their children, to their children’s children, and to our great nation. …”

Then, the mayor of one of our splendid California cities issued a proclamation calling upon all his people to observe the family evening.

Next we received from the Senate of the United States a proclamation from the 93rd Congress, commending the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their spirit of pioneering, for their wholesome living, for their concern for their fellowmen, and for their many achievements.

These recognitions from government, state, and city leaders who were not members of the Church are most gratifying. They know what creates nations and governments. They know what destroys cities and states and governments. They know that the breaking up of the family is the beginning of the fall of the empire. They know well that the dishonesty, immorality, homes broken through divorce and infidelity, limited family size, and adult preoccupation with entertainment and sex presages a collapse of the government.

Will Durant, an eminent writer and student of civilization, has given us some things to think about. He speaks of the powerful army of Carthage, which contested for world dominion but how the wounds of indulgence weakened it to its permanent loss of power.

“We know little of their morals except from their enemies. Greek and Roman writers describe them as heavy eaters and drinkers, loving to gather in dinner clubs, and as loose in their sex relations as they were corrupt in their politics. The treacherous Romans employed fides Punica—Carthaginian faith—as a synonym for treachery. Polybius reported that ‘at Carthage nothing that results in profit is regarded as disgraceful.’ Plutarch denounced the Carthaginians as ‘harsh and gloomy, docile to their rulers, hard to their subjects, running to extremes of cowardice in fear and of savagery in anger, stubborn in decisions, austere, and unresponsive to amusement or the graces of life.’ …

“Hannibal’s troops felt entitled to indulge for a season the flesh that had borne so many hardships and wounds. They were never again the invincible soldiers who had through many campaigns been formed in their master’s Spartan image.” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, pp. 41, 52.)

The story of the civilizations of the world is a continued story of the same weaknesses that leave a country helpless and disintegrated.

In our own time on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific and in the north and the south, we seem to be following the same trends. Our successes bring us to extravagances, to our seeking for high amusement. We control childbirth and reduce our families. We divorce and break up our homes. Many of our children become orphans in one way or another. We become irreligious and practice evil ways. We indulge in the bestial satisfactions. We crave social activities at the expense of our family life and, like the Carthaginians, we lose our sense of rightness, of goodness, of devotion.

It is easy to see the resemblance between our modern-day situation and that of ancient Rome. According to Will Durant, “Prostitution flourished. Homosexualism was stimulated by contact with Greece and Asia; many rich men paid a talent ($3,600) for a male favorite; Cato complained that a pretty boy cost more than a farm. But women did not yield the field to these Greek and Syrian invaders. They took eagerly to all those supports of beauty that wealth now put within their reach. Cosmetics became a necessity, and caustic soap imported from Gaul tinged graying hair into auburn locks.

“Women won the free administration of their dowries, divorced their husbands or occasionally poisoned them, and doubted the wisdom of bearing children in an age of urban congestion and imperialistic wars. Already by 160 Cato and Polybius had noted a decline of population and the inability of the state to raise such armies as had risen to meet Hannibal. The new generation, having inherited world mastery, had not time or inclination to defend it; that readiness for war which had characterized the Roman landowner disappeared now that ownership was being concentrated in a few families and a proletariat without stake in the country filled the slums of Rome. Men became brave by proxy; they crowded the amphitheater to see bloody games and hired gladiators to fight before them at their banquets.” (Durant, pp. 89–90.)

My brothers and sisters, I beg of you to study history—the history of the world. Look at Babylon in Assyria. Look at Jerusalem. Read about Sodom and Gomorrah. The story of Rome and its dissoluteness is in every library. Other cities likewise slipped from high plateaus to low marshes and defilement.

Rome gained the world and lost its soul. As Durant says, “Every new conquest made Rome richer, more rotten, more merciless. She had won every war but the class war. … Now through a hundred bitter years of revolution, Rome would pay the penalty of gaining the world.” (Durant, p. 108.)

His epilogue summarizes: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.” (Durant, p. 665.)

We have been concerned with the rapid rise of a public notion that families should be reduced. A congressman whom we know proposed a program of limiting the family to two children. Again, study the history of countries that have done this. It seems that imported laborers, slaves, uneducated criminals often take the place of the children who would have been under supervision and training.

Will Durant queries:

“What had caused this fall in population? Above all, family limitation. Practiced first by the educated classes, it had not seeped down to a proletariat named for its fertility; by A.D. 100 it had reached the agricultural classes. … Though branded as a crime, infanticide flourished as poverty grew. Sexual excesses may have reduced human fertility; the avoidance or deferment of marriage had a like effect, and the making of eunuchs increased as Oriental customs flowed in to the West. …

“The rapidly breeding Germans could not understand the classic culture, did not accept it, did not transmit it; the rapidly breeding Orientals were mostly of a mind to destroy that culture; the Romans, possessing it, sacrificed it to the comforts of sterility. Rome was conquered not by barbarian invasion from without, but by barbarian multiplication within.

“Moral decay contributed to the dissolution. … Men had now, in the middle and upper classes, the means to yield to temptation, and only expediency to restrain them. Urban congestion multiplied contacts and frustrated surveillance; immigration brought together a hundred cultures whose differences rubbed themselves out into indifference. Moral and esthetic standards were lowered by the magnetism of the mass; and sex ran riot in freedom while political liberty decayed.” (Durant, pp. 666–67.)

The real tragedy is the large number of innocent children who live with only one parent after a divorce or family breakup. In a city not far away from Salt Lake City, 38 percent of all the children under 18 are short of parents. Only one parent is their best record. When children drop to a one-parent basis, that is the announcement of the failing civilization, and it means social disorganization. One survey stated that 70 percent of male prisoners in the United States came from broken homes where they lived with only one parent.

My brothers and sisters, may I close with this vital message. The Lord knew what he was doing and was tragically sincere when he commanded:

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Until we subject our own desires and wants to a higher life, until we are willing to sacrifice, until we are willing to obey, there will be trouble and we shall pay dearly. We and our children stand in grave danger. May we return to the command of God to teach our children all righteousness.

We must remember: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6.)

The command is simple and all inclusive: live the gospel of Christ in completeness. The promise is sure: peace and joy and accomplishment and happiness are the result.

Photography by Eldon Linschoten