Under divine plan of salvation, marriage is privilege, obligation -- President Hunter

In his first priesthood address as president of the Church, President Howard W. Hunter gave counsel and admonition Saturday evening on being a righteous husband and father.

"With a knowledge of the plan of salvation as a foundation, a man who holds the priesthood looks upon marriage as a sacred privilege and obligation," he declared. "It is not good for man nor for woman to be alone. Man is not complete without woman. Neither can fill the measure of their creation without the other. (See 1 Cor. 11:11; Moses 3:18.) Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God. (See D&C 49:15-17.) Only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can they realize the fulness of eternal blessings. (See D&C 131:1-4; 132:15-19.)The prophet asserted, "As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under normal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage."

But he added that prophets of the past have spoken also of those who may not have opportunity to marry in this life. He quoted President Lorenzo Snow as saying: "There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive." (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams.)

President Hunter said a man who holds the priesthood shows perfect moral fidelity to his wife and gives her no reason to doubt his faithfulness.

"The Lord forbids and His Church condemns any and every intimate relationship outside of marriage," he declared.

He warned against pornography, flirtations and unwholesome fantasies, saying they erode one's character and strike at the foundation of a happy marriage.

The prophet said a man who holds the priesthood has reverence for motherhood.

"Mothers perform a labor the priesthood cannot do," he said. "For this gift of life the priesthood should have love unbounded for the mothers of their children.

He reminded priesthood bearers that they share the responsibility to care for children.

"You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her," he counseled. "Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

President Hunter said effective family leadership requires quantity and quality time and must not be left to the wife alone, to society, school or even the Church.

He explained that of necessity there must be a presiding officer in the Church and in the home, and that by divine appointment the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder. He added that presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife, that a wife should be accepted as a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.

"For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion," he declared.

"Keep yourself above any domineering or unworthy behavior in the tender, intimate relationship between husband and wife," he urged.

He condemned abusive or demeaning behavior by any man toward his wife, physically or spiritually. "Differences should be worked out in love and kindness and with a spirit of mutual reconciliation."

Likewise, priesthood holders must not be abusive toward children, but should employ the principles of priesthood government set forth in the revelations, he said.

"No man who has been ordained to the priesthood of God can with impunity abuse his wife or child," President Hunter said. "Sexual abuse of children has long been a cause for excommunication from the Church."

The prophet said priesthood holders have the responsibility, unless disabled, to provide temporal support for their wives and children, and should not shift the responsibility, even to the wife.

"We urge you to do all in your power to allow your wife to remain in the home, caring for the children while you provide for your family as best you can. We further reemphasize that men who abandon their family and fail to meet their responsibility to care for those they have fathered may find their eligibility for a temple recommend and their standing in the Church in jeopardy. In cases of divorce or separation, men must demonstrate that they are meeting family support payments mandated by law and obligated by the principles of the Church in order to qualify for the blessings of the Lord."

He said a priesthood holder must lead his family in Church participation so they will know the gospel and be under the protection of the covenants and ordinances.

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