Bible, family, thanksgiving

November, in the United States, brings with it three national events that rather nicely complement LDS values. The events are Thanksgiving Day, National Family Week and National Bible Week.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national "day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father." The holiday has been observed nationally every year since then.As Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for family gatherings, it is fitting that Congress should designate and the U.S. president should proclaim Thanksgiving week - the fourth week in November - as National Family Week. Observed every year since 1970 and sponsored by a Milwaukee, Wis.-based organization called Family Service America, it has as its purpose "to recognize the role of families as the building blocks of society and to encourage the support of healthy family life and family values."

Those values find foundational support in the Bible. Thus, in an interesting juxtaposition of events, the same week is designated National Bible Week - also by congressional resolution and presidential proclamation. For 53 years, the week has been sponsored by the Layman's National Bible Association Inc., based in New York City, "to motivate increased reading and study of the Bible and to remind all Americans of the Bible's importance."

In conjunction with National Bible Week, the American Bible Society, also based in New York City, sponsors Bible Sunday, to be observed Nov. 21 this year.

At the April 1954 general conference, President Stephen L Richards, first counselor in the First Presidency, commented: "Next to its witness for the supremacy of one God and the coming forth of His Son, perhaps the greatest contribution emanating from the holy Bible is its historical and doctrinal support for the unity of the family in the patriarchal order. From the beginning man and woman were to cleave together. Marriage has been ordained of God, and sons and daughters commanded to honor their fathers and their mothers. All of the earlier pronouncements concerning marriage and family ties set forth in the ancient scriptures were adopted by and incorporated into the gospel of Christ."

Today, perhaps more than ever before, those scriptural values are being eroded. Societal forces continue a relentless attack on the traditional family institution: husband, wife and children united within the shelter of a lawful marriage union.

"Every once in a while the sky is really falling, and this seems to be the case with the latest national figures on illegitimacy," wrote Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. "The unadorned statistic is that, in 1991, 1.2 million children were born to unmarried mothers, within a hair of 30 percent of all live births." (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 1993; p. A14.)

Murray warns that a continuation of the trend will result in more schools with disruptive students and indifferent parents, increased domestic violence, more neighborhoods with high concentrations of drug activity and large numbers of men who have dropped out of the labor force.

"My proposition is that illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time - more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else. Doing something about it is not just one more item on the American policy agenda, but should be at the top."

Michael Medved, film critic for the New York Post and co-host of public television's "Sneak Previews," blames America's entertainment industry for what he sees as a relentless attack on values most Americans cherish.

In his book Hollywood vs. America, Medved laments, "Our fellow citizens cherish the institution of marriage and consider religion an important priority in life; but the entertainment industry promotes every form of sexual adventurism and regularly ridicules religious believers as crooks or crazies."

What can be the effect of such fare over time?

"I worry over the impact of media messages," Medved writes, "not only on my children but on myself - and on all the rest of us. No matter how sophisticated we believe that we are, or how determined our best efforts to counteract their influence, the poisons of the popular culture seep into our very souls."

The Bible might be viewed as an antidote for the poison Medved fears and a prescription for the societal ill that Murray decries. As timely as today's newspaper, here are biblical teachings on some current topics.

Sexual relations outside of marriage. The basic commandment given to Moses, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," (Ex. 20:14.) is repeated several times in the Old and New testaments, sometimes with additional light.

Prov. 6:32 adds this insight: "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul," suggesting that a correct understanding of the gospel can motivate one to avoid this serious sin.

Jesus taught, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:28.) Thus, the Savior's teaching makes one responsible for controlling not just behavior but one's very thoughts as well. That one sentence speaks volumes about pornography and the cultural poisons that film critic Medved wrote about.

Husband-wife relationship. "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest," enjoined the Preacher in Eccl. 9:9, reaffirmed by the apostle Paul, who counseled, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." (Eph. 5:25, 28-29.)

Paul wrote to Titus that young women should be taught to love their husbands and children and to be "discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good. . . ." (See Titus 2:4-5.)

Parental responsibilities to children. Numerous passages in the Old and New Testaments admonish parents to teach their children the commandments of God. One of the most familiar is Prov. 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

The matter of disciplining children is addressed in Prov. 13:24, which states that he who loves his son "chasteneth him betimes," intimating that reproof should be administered in love, not in hostility. The word betimes means early on or without delay, a principle that has been affirmed by some modern experts in child rearing.

Paul, in his first epistle to Timothy, declared the responsibility of fathers to provide for their children: "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Tim. 5:8.).

Duties of children. In addition to the basic commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother," (Ex. 20:12) the Bible exhorts children, "Obey your parents in the Lord." (Eph. 6:1.)

The boy Jesus set an example for all children, for he was "subject unto" his parents, as recounted in Luke 2:51.

The duty of adult sons and daughters to respect and care for aging parents is suggested in Lev. 19:32, "Thou shalt . . . honour the face of the old man."

Eternal nature of the family. The entire gospel as presented in the Bible makes it clear that the family unit in mortality is a model of the relationship that exists between heavenly parents and their children, who comprise all people who have lived or will live.

Job 38:4-7 recounts a gathering of that heavenly family in the pre-mortal existence, when "all the sons of God shouted for joy" at the prospect of earth life and its possibilities.

Mal. 4:5-6 prophesies of the latter days when the hearts of children would turn to their ancestors in a desire to research them and link family generations together in eternity through temple ordinances.

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