WHY DOES MARRIAGE MATTER?
We as members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Leaders of our church strongly advocate for families and marriage. We "solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creators plan for the eternal destiny of his children." (The Family Proclamation) What is interesting is that the Proclamation on families was written more than 20 years ago before the trends on marriage and laws regarding redefining marriage and families were even being considered or realized. We now see trends and patterns in marriage that are developing that are having lasting and even devastating consequences for our society and especially for children, even the rising generation. What are some of these trends? Increase in the divorce rate, increase in cohabitating individuals, increase in births to unwed mothers, etc. How do these trends affect children? Paul Amato conducted a study which compared children living with only one biological parent and those living continuously with both biological parents. His findings report that children living continuously with both biological parents were "less likely to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood but also into adulthood." (Amato, 2005).
DIVORCE: For example, children who experience parental divorce are prone to a variety of academic, behavioral, and emotional problems." In this particular study of 60 divorced families, five years after the divorce more than one third of the group were "clinically depressed, doing poorly in school, had difficulty maintaining friendships, expressed chronic problems such as sleep disturbance, and continued to hope that their parents would reconcile." Another side effect of divorce Amato found was "children in divorced families tend to have weaker emotional bonds with mothers and fathers than do their peers in two-parent families." (Amato, 2005)
CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE: Children born outside of marriage when compared with children who grow up in stable, two-parent families "reach adulthood with less education, earn less income, have lower occupational status and are more likely to be idle (not employed and not in school), are more likely to have nonmarital birth, have more troubled marriages, experience higher rates of divorce, and report more symptoms of depression." (Amato, 2005)
COHABITATING PARENTING: In another study, Susan L. Brown found that "children living with cohabitating biological parents, compared with children living with continuously married parents, had more behavioral problems, more emotional problems, and lower levels of school engagement. Unmarried cohabitating parents compared with married parents had fewer years of education, earned less income, had lower levels of psychological well-being, and reported more stress in parenting. The risk of relationship dissolution is also substantially higher for cohabitating couples with children than for married couples with children." (Amato, 2005)
These trends and findings are alarming for children and for future generations. Of course these are only a few examples of the significant difference between married and unmarried parenting. We can certainly conclude that marriage matters for children. The commitment and stability that come in a marriage can not compare with that of any other relationship or circumstance. Of course marriage is not always perfect and there are many ups and downs in a marital relationship but God has made it very clear (and now we understand a bit more why) that children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." (The Family Proclamation) It requires our greatest effort and care to protect and defend our own marriages and that of others.
Elder David A. Bednar said this: "Lucifer relentlessly assails and distorts the doctrines that matter most to us individually, to our families and to the world. Where is the adversary focusing his most direct and diabolical attacks? Satan works unremittingly to confuse understanding about gender, to promote the premature and unrighteous use of procreative power, and to hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness. The adversary's attacks upon eternal marriage will continue to increase in intensity, frequency, and sophistication.
The Father's plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him. Lucifer's attacks on the plan are intended to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to halt their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become "miserable like unto himself" (2Nephi 2:27), and he works to warp the elements of the Father's plan he hates the most. Satan does not have a body, he cannot marry, and he will not have a family. And he persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan's efforts.
Given what we know about our enemy's intent, each of should be especially vigilant in seeking personal inspiration as to how we can protect and safeguard our own marriages - and how we can learn and teach correct principles in the home and in our Church assignments about the eternal significance of gender and or the role of marriage in the Father's plan." (Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan - Elder David A. Bednar)
Song: Families Can Be Together Forever
Quote; "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." (The Family Proclamation).
Ideas for Discussion:
Discuss with your children what this statement means from the Proclamation. Why does marriage matter for children? Discuss some of the above research findings and some problems that children face as they experience divorce. Read and discuss Elder's Oaks talk on Divorce (Divorce). Discuss ways in which children can prepare for marriage in the future and safeguard their marriages. Discuss ways children can contribute to strengthening their parents marriage (support date nights by being willing to babysit, help out with chores around the house, encourage family prayer and scripture study, etc.) Discuss ways parents can work to strengthen their own marriage. Discuss the reality of Satan and his tactics he uses to destroy families. Read and discuss the above quote from Elder Bednar.