The family - a husband, wife, and children - is foundational to God's plan for his children. Children need a dedicated father and mother to provide a place of safety and refuge where they can learn and grow. True happiness comes when individuals participate to the extent possible in this plan.
One of my favorite musicals of all time is Pippin by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson. It follows a young man named Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, as he tries to find his "Corner of the Sky" - his place in life. He thinks he will find who he is really meant to be by doing something amazing or by reveling in pleasures - frequently singing the lyrics:
Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky
Eventually, after trying many grand things and reveling in many different pleasures, he realizes none of it makes him happy. Dejected, he ends up living on a farm for a short time with a widow named Catherine and her son Theo. Eventually he leaves to resume his search for purpose, but after a short while he realizes that where he was most happy was with Catherine and Theo and sings to Catherine:
I'm not a river or a giant bird
That soars to the sea
And if I'm never tied to anything
I'll never be free
I wanted magic shows and miracles
Mirages to touch
I wanted such a little thing from life
I wanted so much
I never came close, my love
We nearly came near
It never was there
I think it was here
They showed me crimson, gold and lavender
A shining parade
But there's no color I can have on earth
That won't finally fade
When I wanted worlds to paint
And costumes to wear
I think it was here
'Cause it never was there
The phrase "if I'm never tied to anything I'll never be free" frequently rings through my head. There's a real temptation as a man on the earth to build something grand, to "be somebody", or to revel in pleasures. Unfortunately, I've chased that "mirage to touch" at times and still fight that impulse. But it's not really what brings true happiness. Everything we build here in life eventually ends, erodes, and crumbles to dust. The best way to make a difference in the world as a man is to be a husband, a father, a grandfather. To teach and rear the next generation. The temptation to be something grand is there for women as well. I've heard one woman say "there's so much more to life than being a mother and wife". My immediate thought was - what can be more important than building a strong marriage as husband and wife and raising the next generation, and then being a resource for those children as they become adults and raise children of their own? Where participating in those roles is not possible in mortality, what could be more important than exercising the character-building capacities of mother and father that are part of our heritage as children of God in any way we can?
I frequently think back to a conversation I had with some fellow missionaries when I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala. They were talking about how they wanted to find the "prettiest wife" they could - it was their first criteria in choosing someone to marry. I thought it was so odd that looks and physical attraction was their primary criteria, and said that I was much more interested in my future wife's character. I wanted a woman I could build a strong family with, and I found exactly what I was looking for in my wife.
As a couple, we are raising five beautiful boys, each with their unique challenges. It has required, and continues to require, enormous sacrifice for each of us. There's nothing I'd rather have though - no position, no title, no influence, no pleasure more important to me than being a husband and father who does his best build his family.
I have seen the effects of absent fathers and mothers - fathers and mothers who were trapped so deep in their own addictions and issues that they could not help their own children, or became enemies to their children. The mistakes and failings of parents are passed down from generation to generation, and can deepen and worsen with each passing generation without someone who breaks the cycle.
We live in a time where attacks on the family and strong communities are everywhere. Some general areas where this happens include:
- Distracting pleasures that pull parents away from their primary responsibilities or that prevent people from forming relationships that lead to marriage.
- The idol of self-discovery that disrupts strong communities by reducing the desire to settle down in a permanent relationship that builds an eternal family with husband, wife and children.
- Pornography and the emphasis of sexuality above all else in relationships, creating a false sense of what builds and maintains a strong family.
- Technologies and online services that isolate individuals and emphasize difference over common ground.
For this and other reasons, I am extremely grateful for the continued emphasis from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the principles outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I love Elder Oak's statement in the most recent General Conference of The Church from his talk Truth and the Plan:
Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage and to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women. We know that the relationships, identities, and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan.
As someone who experiences same-sex attraction, I am very grateful that avenues of help exist that do not tell me the only way I can be happy is by living the gay lifestyle - that I do not have to deprive my children of a mother in order to be truly happy. I do not minimize the difficulty of these attractions that many, including myself, experience, but I think it is extremely unwise to emphasize inclusion at the expense of affirming true principles. We can and should do both.
(Photo removed due to concern's for my family's safety)