In about four different places this past week, I have been made aware of a video about the Parkers in Massachusetts. Their story is one I have known about for a while, but seeing it on this video impacted me significantly. I wept and literally felt sick to my stomach.
If you are not familiar with their story, I encourage you to watch this video. Regardless of how you feel about the gay marriage issue, the threat to parental and taxpayer rights, in my opinion, is something that should concern every citizen. This situation illustrates how making gay marriage legal could impact other people's rights. And how it could impact our children.
It's easy to see things like this video, and to consider the possible ripple effects of something like the legalization of gay marriage, and feel overwhelmed, even afraid. I know because I have felt those feelings many times. We live in perilous times, and we were reminded of this during General Conference. We can see evidence of this fact all around us.
But I have had an interesting experience as I have thought about this video, and about this issue. While I am deeply concerned, and have dedicated time and energy to actively support Proposition 8, I feel that it is important not to be afraid.
I was struck by President Packer's talk in conference. I personally felt that this was a talk that could end up bringing us much comfort and guidance if Proposition 8 fails. In a sense, it will be as though the government has failed us, has failed the children, has failed the family, has failed those of us who believe homosexuality is morally wrong.
And yet, what is the antidote? I will leave it to you to ponder his talk in its entirety, but to me, he taught some pretty important things about our duty to remain loyal to our country, and respectful to the government, even if it fails us in significant and obvious and damaging ways.
But, most importantly, he reminded us that our ultimate safety and protection lies with our covenants and the ordinances of the gospel. No matter what the government chooses to do, God is in control and we can take great comfort in that fact.
He said this:
It is my purpose to show that, in troubled times, the Lord has always prepared a safe way ahead.
We live in those perilous times which the apostle Paul prophesied would come in the last days. If we are to be safe individually and as families and secure as a church it will be through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel….
We will stay on course. We will anchor ourselves as families and as a Church to these principles and ordinances. Whatever tests lie ahead — and they will be many — we must remain faithful and true.
This video about the Parker family will obviously bring up the issue of public schools and the problems therein. I have often wondered what I would do if the schools around me started with this kind of inappropriate and immoral indoctrination of young children that is portrayed in the video. I have often thought that it would be a no-brainer. And I can totally understand if parents make that choice now or in the future.
But I no longer feel that that is necessarily what we absolutely would do, or even what we must do. While I will continue to seek God's guidance with respect to my children's education, to be honest, my focus is less on that now, and more on what Pres. Packer discussed about where our safety lies. It's what our prophets have repeatedly taught. In the midst of my concerns, this reminder has brought me great peace and perspective, even a sense of power — power in God.
I think I can best explain what I am feeling in my heart by something a wise bishop of ours said.
“We sometimes want to just put our children in an armored car,” he said. (Oh, yeah, don't we all relate to that?) But then he reminded us that we simply can't.
“We have to help them put on the armor of God.”
So in all of this tumult and concern, with all the very real risks to family and to morality and to marriage and everything else that gay marriage will bring if it passes, and with all the many other signs of the last days that we are seeing unfold right before our eyes, I think of something Elder Ballard said years ago. He quoted quoted William Clayton, who wrote the lyrics to “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Brother Clayton said:
If you will be faithful, you have nothing to fear from the journey. The Lord will take care of his saints.
Elder Ballard continues:
We are the inheritors of a tremendous heritage. Now it is our privilege and responsibility to be part of the Restoration ?s continuing drama, and there are great and heroic stories of faith to be written in our day. It will require every bit of our strength, wisdom, and energy to overcome the obstacles that will confront us. But even that will not be enough. We will learn, as did our pioneer ancestors, that it is only in faith real faith, whole-souled, tested and tried that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our own perilous pathways through life.
God is at the helm. He can and will guide the Church as a whole, and He can and will guide us individually and in our families if we let Him. As things unfold — and it has been prophesied that things will be hard and intense — ultimately, the most important thing we can do for our families is to create havens where our children can learn to put on the armor of God by clinging to gospel covenants, ordinances, and doctrine. Sometimes that will mean protecting them in deliberate ways from outside influences and I do not minimize the importance for us to be actively seeking God's guidance in all aspects of our lives and the lives of our children. We simply do not have the luxury of being passive parents.
For each of us, though, some of those specifics may look a little different. In our family, for example, we have no television connection, and for now, my children have limited-to-no access to the internet, even though they come home from school with information about “positive” sites that the school encourages. We hardly see movies and have little idea what video games are popular (except Wii Sports, which I love). π We have limited the children's extracurricular activities. (I'm still sorting through where to draw the line there.)
In some families, parents feel that that keeping their children in public schools is damaging and wrong for their children. We each must decide these kind of specifics for our families and rely on God for inspiration. I do not believe these kinds of decisions, particularly with regard to school choice, should be made lightly. But I also do not they should simply be made as a reactive way to deal with fear of what is happening in our society. We don't need to fear. We can make our decisions calmly and in faith, knowing and trusting God will guide us for our specific circumstances and our children's specific needs, personalities, and spirits.
I also believe it is very important that we respect others' decisions, particularly in areas where our current leaders have made no absolute declarations. (If they ever did, I would be the first to respond!)
But they have made absolute declarations about other things. We need to give priority to family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and other critical elements of gospel living. We need to simplify our lives so that we focus on what is best and most important, on what will last eternally.
I believe as we do these things, we can help our children (and continue to help ourselves) feel the joy and Spirit of the gospel so that they (and we) will know to recognize Satan's counterfeits. People are buying into his lies; the rhetoric in our day is strong and convincing. But we have prophets who make the way clear. We have scriptures and the temple to guide us. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We know the truths of the plan of salvation as taught in the Proclamation to the World on the Family and elsewhere. The doctrine and our covenants will protect us as we cling to them with faith.
As we help our children put on the armor of God, when they face opposition and the devil's lies — and they will no matter what we do to try to control what they are exposed to — we hope that they will be able to say, as did Moses,
“Deceive me not….[God's] glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Get thee hence, Satan.”
Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail….
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34, 36)