Mothers face compelling challenges, opportunities

"No one in this nation is more important or influential than the mothers of America, none faces a greater challenge or a more compelling opportunity," President Gordon B. Hinckley said in addressing a meeting in the Tabernacle on Temple Square Sunday, May 1.

President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke during a half-hour meeting immediately after the weekly broadcast of the Tabernacle Choir's "Music and the Spoken Word." Among the near-capacity audience were several hundred people attending the annual convention of American Mothers Inc., which was held in Salt Lake City. President Hinckley's wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, sat on the podium with him. Barbara B. Smith, president of American Mothers, Inc., and a past general president of the Relief Society, welcomed the American Mothers Inc. participants, their spouses and others to the special program.The Tabernacle Choir, directed by Jerold Ottley and accompanied by John Longhurst and Clay Christiansen, performed six numbers, including selections that focus on the home and families.

President Hinckley said he, by nature, is an optimist, but, he pointed out, he cannot close his eyes to the facts of today's society. He read from an article published April 25 in U.S. News & World Report, in which it was reported that almost 30 percent of America's children have unmarried parents, more than half have mothers who return to work before they are a year old, almost one quarter live in poverty. The article stated that in today's popular culture, adulthood "is too often defined as doing what you want to do, not what you are supposed to do. Making a baby is a sign of status, while caring for one is not. Right and wrong are old-fashioned, politically incorrect concepts. And sin? Forget it."

President Hinckley, read from the article, " `We are becoming a country of deadbeat dads who don't pay their bills and dead-tired moms who work two jobs to pick up the slack. . . .

" Probably the best thing that society can do for its toddlers is to makeparent' an honorable title again. No job is more important, yet no job is more often taken for granted. We teach work skills but not life skills, how to change a carburetor but not a diaper, how to treat a customer but not a kid. Becoming a parent should be . . . a sign of a lasting relationship, not just a passing infatuation; a source of pride, and not remorse. Only then will our children be safe.' "

President Hinckley said: "In many respects, this is the most wonderful age in the history of the world. We have achieved technical miracles, but, tragically, we are experiencing in many areas of our society a moral and ethical disaster."

He reflected on the moral, social and spiritual atmosphere of his youth, when prayer was part of daily life in most homes and children learned respect for government leaders as they were taught to pray for them. He recalled when uncouth or profane language was not used in homes and when the name of Deity was held in reverence. He spoke of the teaching of civility and altruism, and remembered when boys were taught respect for girls and womanhood.

"We've made a lot of technical progress since those days, but we've also lost a tremendous reservoir of values," President Hinckley said.

He quoted from a Duke University commencement address several years ago, in which broadcast journalist Ted Koppel spoke of the entertainment industry: " `We require nothing of you; only that you watch. . . . And gradually, it must be said, we are beginning to make our mark on the American psyche. We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. "Shoot up if you must; but use a clean needle." "Enjoy sex whenever and with whomever you wish; but wear a condom."

" `No! The answer is "no!" Not "no" because it isn't cool . . . or smart . . . or because you might end up in jail or dying in an AIDS ward - but "no" . . . because it's wrong. Because we have spent 5,000 years as a race of rational human beings trying to drag ourselves out of the primeval slime by searching for truth . . . and moral absolutes. . . .

" `Our society finds truth too strong a medicine to digest undiluted. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder; it is a howling reproach.

" `What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions . . . They are commandments.' "

President Hinckley said: "I know that we have always had crime, and that we always will have crime. We have had and will have some pornography, immorality, and other problems. But we cannot continue the fearsome trend we are presently experiencing without catastrophe overtaking us.

"I am more concerned about the moral deficit than I am about the budget deficit.

"The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people. A community of troubled homes inevitably leads to a generation of troubled children. Can anything be done?"

President Hinckley said a turnaround cannot be expected in a day, month, or a year. "But we must begin to do something, and I am satisfied that with enough effort we can begin a turnaround within a generation, and accomplish wonders within two generations."

He spoke of a tree he planted more than 50 years ago. After its trunk had grown about a foot in diameter, he noticed the tree, subjected to a strong canyon wind, was leaning to one side, misshapen and out of balance. He braced himself against the trunk to try to push it upright, but he couldn't move it. He tried straightening the tree with block and tackle, but the tree only trembled slightly. President Hinckley said, "It seemed to say, `You can't straighten me. It's too late. I've grown this way because of your neglect, and I will not bend.' "

He said he finally sawed off a major part of the tree, leaving only one branch growing skyward. "More than half a century has passed since I planted that tree," he said. "Today it is large. Its shape is better. It is a great asset to the home. But how serious was the trauma of its youth and how brutal the treatment I used to straighten it.

"When it was first planted, a piece of string would have held it straight against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort. But I did not, and it bent to the forces that came against it.

"Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. Said the writer of Proverbs: `Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' (Prov. 22:6.) That training finds its roots in the home. There will be little, if any, help from the public schools. They have largely abdicated the teaching of values.

"And don't depend on government to help in this darkening situation. Barbara Bush spoke wisely when in 1990 she addressed the Wellesley graduating class and said:

" `Your success as a family . . . our success as a society . . . depends not on what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.' "

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