The Family: The Hope for the Future of Nations
Following is the complete text of a talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson at the World Congress of Families V in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Aug. 12, 2009.
My wife, Wendy, and I express profound gratitude and respect for each participant at this Congress. You have been actively and tirelessly engaged in the defense of marriage and the promotion of families. We commend you, we thank you, and we pray for you!
As do you, I care deeply about the family. Not only do I care deeply about the worth of the family to God and to all of God's children, but I have experienced the strength that comes into the lives of a man and woman who cherish each other as husband and wife and who love their children.
My deceased wife, Dantzel, and I were blessed with nine daughters and a son. Our great joys of family life are real; our sorrows have been heart-wrenching. I know what it is to lose a daughter from cancer and to walk from her funeral carrying her two young sons in my arms. I have also felt the joy when our son-in-law married a wonderful woman who once again completed their family circle.
I know what it is to see a daughter suffer through a divorce. I have seen the pain and upheaval that ensued, and have also been grateful for the remarkable man she later married, who has again completed that family circle.
After 59 years of marriage, my dear wife, Dantzel, died of a sudden rhythm shift of the heart. Ironically, my professional life as a heart surgeon included intensive research in the very malady that claimed her life. Even so, I could not resuscitate her. I know about a widower's silent loneliness.
I also know what it is to be blessed again by my Heavenly Father in marrying a second time, also to a woman of compassion and generosity of spirit, who has once again completed my family circle.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with the companionship between a husband and a wife. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can provide the joy and growth that come from happy children who make a family circle. Throughout my life, I have answered to many titles, including doctor, captain, professor, and elder. But the titles I revere most are those of husband, father, and grandfather.
I am pleased to follow Wendy in speaking to this world congress on "The Family: The Hope for the Future of Nations." That topic is timely. On all sides, the family is under attack. Many wonder if the institution is no longer needed. Our response is certain. If there is any hope for the future of nations, that hope resides in the family. Our children are our wealth; our children are our strength; our children are indeed our future!
You are well aware of the ominous statistics. In the past 50 years, the birthrate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. In the nations of Europe the birthrate has dropped from the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman to the present rate of 1.5.1 Nations that cannot maintain their populations could even disappear, along with their culture and heritage. Data from the United States show similar worrisome trends. In 1960, minor children formed half of the population; now they constitute only 30 percent.2 Predictions are that by the year 2025, single-person households will outnumber families with children.3
What would happen to the future of nations if the next generation failed to appear in significant numbers? The answer is alarming! Yes, we would be poorer economically, but even poorer spiritually.
In the twilight of life—in the declining years that can be so difficult—those individuals who had made an earlier self-centered choice not to have children, will be alone and unloved. They missed the point of the Psalmist who said: "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Dear friends, future happiness and even the future of nations is linked to children. Families with children need to be re-enthroned as the fundamental unit of society. We simply must value children more than we do! Without a new generation to replace the old, there is no wealth; without families, there is no future.
Children come from the union of a man and a woman. The happiest and most secure children come from happy and secure marriages of fathers and mothers. History and contemporary studies have shown that marriage of a husband and a wife, with both contributing their distinctive natural traits to the family, provides the ideal context within which to rear productive, compassionate, and moral individuals.5
In 2006, the parliament of France courageously rejected same-gender marriage precisely so that children would not "suffer as a result of situations imposed on them by adults. The interest of the child must outweigh the exercise of freedom by adults . . . whatever life choices are made by the parents."6
Any attempt to broaden the definition of marriage to encompass a contractual relationship between adults outside of the traditional family weakens the institution of marriage as God Himself defined it, and undermines the separate, divinely decreed responsibilities of man and woman for procreation, protection, and rearing of children.
Marriage is not simply a contract between individuals; it affects all of society. For that reason, governments have long recognized the family as the fundamental unit of society and have endorsed and encouraged traditional marriage through legal recognitions, protections and benefits.
Individuals and groups who would overthrow the traditional concept of marriage and family would first mutate and then mutilate these long-established, time-tested social norms. The consequences of such changes would have far-reaching implications. If youth were to harbor the belief that the traditional family is but one choice of lifestyle among others, many of them will make choices that will reap only emptiness and despair, both for themselves and for society at large.
Furthermore, those who seek to undermine traditional marriage and family would effectively limit the rights of those who do uphold the sanctity of these institutions. This consequence leads to another major concern— the eventual erosion of religious liberty, including the liberty to defend, promote, and practice traditional family values.7 Religious liberty is essential if we are to raise up righteous children. Morally responsible families will not marginalize religious liberty, they will nurture and protect it.
In 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a document that supports the development of happy children who are morally strong. It is entitled, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."8 It has been translated into 81 languages. Copies are available at this Congress at no charge. You may also procure the text from the Internet.9
I will cite excerpts from this proclamation that may be helpful to you, your nations, and associations.
STATEMENT ON THE FAMILY
That concludes my citations from this proclamation. Copies of the complete text are available to you and to all who would choose wisely among contending messages of our day.
This Congress can also help with persuasive statements and continuing efforts to defend marriage and promote the interests of children in traditional families. While competing voices battle for approval, the message from this conference must be clear. We can learn from Paul who said: "There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification."10
"For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"11
Our message is certain! Children are the hope for the future of our nations!