Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin
Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
Those of us who are privileged to work with youth are prone many times, in fact most of the time, to admonish and counsel parents in the training of their sons and daughters. In this there is involved another factor of equal importance, namely, the counsel that should be given to children with reference to their attitude toward fathers and mothers. This not alone involves children, young men and women, but us of an older generation.
A Covenant of Israel
It brings to mind the children of Israel who had been out of the land of Egypt three months, traveling to the wilderness of Sinai, when the voice of the Lord was heard:
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:4-6.)
Thus spoke the Lord to his covenant people with whose progenitors he made a promise and a covenant that they were to be his chosen people, the elect of the earth, becoming as numerous as the sands of the seashore. But bondage to a great nation of worshippers of false gods became their lot, and the ideologies of worship and life of the Egyptians became a part of the practices and lives of the children of Israel. Consequently, the Lord delivered them as he said from the fleshpots of the Egyptians and gave them forty years of preparation based upon the Ten Commandments before permitting them to enter the land of their inheritance, a repentant and chastened people.
A Commandment and a Promise
The fifth commandment was one of the most basic in the Lord's training of his disobedient children, for upon it hinged the patriarchal order of the family. It is the only commandment of the ten that has in it a promise, a promise of longevity upon the earth to those who obey it:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12.)
In the days of the Israelites, it was the custom for a father to become the very head and ruler of his posterity; his word was law. He was counselor to his children. Although Moses was called of God to deliver the children of Israel from bondage, in lieu of his own father, he sought the counsel and advice of his father-in-law.
All of the ancient servants of the Lord understood fully the significance of this commandment, for the writer of Proverbs declared to the children of his day the following:
My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:20-23.)
Parents were honored and revered not only in the flush of younger years, for the writer of Proverbs again declares:
Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. (Proverbs 23:22.)
A son or a daughter who cursed father or mother in the light of Israelitish understanding of the fifth commandment had the following hanging over his or her head:
Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness. (Proverbs 20:20.)
Micah, the old prophet, points out in the following passage the reasons for disunited families and divided households.
For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. (Micah 7:6.)
Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, exemplified in his attitude toward his earthly parents complete compliance with and obedience to the fifth commandment, indicating to the Scribes and Pharisees, upon one occasion, as recorded in Matthew 15 verses 2 to 8, that they were hypocrites in that they had failed to obey the fifth commandment and had taught to the people the wrong concept of it.
A dying Redeemer on Calvary's hill observed the swooning form of his loyal and devoted mother. Mindful of her to the very last, he said to John the Beloved, "Behold thy mother," consigning her to the care of John, exemplifying his love and respect for her.
The Apostle Paul declared to the Ephesians:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3.)
The Fifth Commandment Binding at the Present Time
Many centuries have passed since the days of the Israelites and the Redeemer of the world, but again we submit the question: What about the fifth commandment in this dispensation? Is this commandment still binding upon the covenant people of this day? The answer is obvious for in the restoration of the new and everlasting covenant, family ties, bonds, and relationships in this life and the eternities yet to come are dependent upon the acceptance of and obedience to the immortal commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother," for the Lord promised the ancients that He would send Elijah the prophet as recorded in Malachi 4, verses 5 and 6.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Since Elijah's appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith, temples have been erected wherein are performed these binding ordinances which seal fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters together, not only for time but for all eternity. These sealings are valid as far as eternities are concerned in so far as children honor fathers and mothers. Family relationship in this life will influence our future eternal associations. Failure to honor parents temporally will jeopardize anticipated eternal blessings. Israel's God will never sustain any son or daughter who enjoys the privilege of having a tabernacle in the flesh and then casts that father or mother aside who has made this glorious privilege possible. As God's covenant people, the obligation resting upon us to honor fathers and mothers is just as binding as it was upon the children of Israel and the Saints who lived in the days of Christ. If there is one people who should fully understand and comprehend the fifth commandment from a temporal and a spiritual point of vew, it should be the members of the restored Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents Worthy Of Honor
Consider the sacrifices made by fathers and mothers in the struggle to provide for their children the necessities of life in addition to scholastic and other opportunities. In many instances if these privileges had not been afforded by the parents, the parents would have had enough of this world's goods to live independent of children or other agencies, but because of parental love, personal sacrifices for children have not been too great in the eyes of loyal and devoted parents.
The Maintenance of Aged Parents a Duty
The servants of Jacob's God, speaking in these the last days, declare again to the people of the Lord to honor thy father and thy mother, to accept their advice and maintain them if necessary with the essentials of life, not permitting this special privilege and sacred obligation to be placed in the hands of any public agency.
The older brethren and sisters may be classified in two divisions: first, those who are physically able to work, and second, those who are incapacitated. Those who are physically able to work should be provided with this opportunity, for the Lord has denied no man this privilege on account of age. Adam was commanded to leave the Garden of Eden and to earn his bread by the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow. The Lord at no time indicated to Adam that a certain age he would be retired. Those who are physically incapacitated for work should be cared for, first by their children, then by the Priesthood quorum, or the Church.
The fifth commandment is a definite and integral part of the Gospel of salvation; therefore the servants of the Lord throughout the Church are responsible for its being taught to the people.
Bishops should determine the economic status of all aged members, calling into council sons and daughters of those who are dependent for their sustenance upon public relief agencies, to work out means and ways whereby fathers and mothers in declining years receive from their own flesh and blood the necessities of life as a loving expression of gratitude to the Lord for faithful and loving parents.
Quorums To Assist
There are some cases where sons and daughters, because of family responsibilities, find their resources insufficient to care fully for parents. For this reason, the Priesthood quorum to which the aged father belongs should be called upon to provide work or some means whereby an individual can sustain himself. Thus the Priesthood quorum magnifies the real order of this divine brotherhood, namely, in being my brother's keeper.
When the family and the quorum have done all within their power to assist, should further assistance be needed, then the bishop of the ward, with the resources of the Welfare program, the fast offerings, and the tithes of the Church, should supplement and augment the assistance already rendered. In the case of an aged brother and sister who have no children or quorum connections, the bishop of the ward is obliged to provide food, shelter, clothes, fuel and such cash as is needed to provide medicine and other small incidentals for the comfort and maintenance of such brethren and sisters. Any bishop who advises older brethren and sisters, worthy members of the Church, to seek assistance from agencies other than that of family, Priesthood quorum and Church, in the light of the fifth commandment is not following the will of the Lord nor the advice and counsel of the General Authorities of the Church.
The Government Not To Be Burdened
No doubt the question has already flashed through your minds, "What about taxes paid and revenues collected for maintenance of the aged?" Because taxes are levied for a certain cause or project does not make the cause or project right nor lift the obligations that rest upon the shoulders of Latter-day Saint sons and daughters in relationship to their parents. As loyal citizens, we pay the tax; in fact we follow the admonition of the Savior when He said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21.) Assuming our responsibilities of maintaining parents, we also exemplify a high degree of patriotism and genuine love for our government in that we relieve it of the expense involved. We should ever remember that the government in and of itself produces nothing except through the channels of taxation. Therefore, the people should sustain the government and not expect the government to sustain them.
One not of our faith declared:
There is more guarantee in the initiative, the will, the conscience of an American than in all the statutes ever passed by Congress. How have we lived on this continent these three centuries since a Pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock? How have we managed to exist without a government guarantee? Except for the crippled and the sick and the weakest among us, we lived by God's mandate, "Honour thy father and thy mother." The parent nurtured the child; the child protected the aging parent. It was love, not law, that guaranteed life within a God-fearing, God-loving family.
Advice And Example Of Leaders
As a people, our leadership has always set us an inspiring example in that they, from the Prophet Joseph Smith down to President Heber J. Grant, have been most solicitous for the welfare and comfort of their parents. Think, if you will, of President Heber J. Grant; faced in his younger years with financial ruin, yet he provided his mother with a home and supplied her with the comforts of life to her dying day. Such an example of obedience to the fifth commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother," no doubt has led to the many blessings, both spiritual and temporal, that the Lord has showered upon His servant. President Joseph F. Smith declared:
The family organization lies at the basis of all true government, and too much stress cannot be placed upon the importance of the government in the family being as perfect as possible, nor upon the fact that in all instances respect therefor should be upheld.
Young men should be scrupulously careful to impress upon their minds the necessity of consulting with father and mother in all that pertains to their actions in life. Respect and veneration for parents should be inculcated into the hearts of the young people of the Churchfather and mother to be respected, their wishes to be regardedand in the heart of every child should be implanted this thought of esteem and consideration for parents which characterized the families of the ancient patriarchs.
God is at the head of the human race; we look up to him as the Father of all. We cannot please him more than by regarding the respecting and honoring our fathers and mothers, who are the means of our existence here upon the earth.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal Priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9.)
Modern Israel A Covenant People
True, we enjoy all of the privileges of the royal Priesthood. For that reason alone we should become a holy nation, a peculiar people, for our path has led us out of darkness into the marvelous light of the restored gospel and revealed truth. Being a covenant people as were the children of Israel of old, we today are the descendants of the modern children of Israel who one century ago stood on the banks of the Mississippi River with Nauvoo the Beautiful in flames at their backs and in front of them the desolate wilderness, swept by the winds of winter. But God of Israel remembered His covenant people as He remembered them in the days of bondage in Egypt and revealed to a modern Moses, Brigham Young, the plan whereby this peculiar people were to be led across the boundless plains through the rugged defiles of yon mountains and into the land of modern Palestine, with its body of fresh water on the south, connected to the salten sea on the north by the River Jordan. This modern Moses declared after arriving in te valley, "Hear ye, oh hear ye, Israel! Ye are to become a self-sustaining people." Alone in the wilderness, a thousand miles from the borders of civilization, these modern children of Israel went to work with an implicit faith in their God, obeying his commandments, sustaining the aged, the widow, and the fatherless, and cooperating fully with one another, believing wholly in the principle of free enterprise and personal initiative; and there arose on the foundation of these divine fundamentals a great commonwealth in which the kingdom, as Brigham Young called the Church, was firmly anchored.
We, the descendants of these fathers and mothers, owe all that we have and are to them, which affords a wonderful opportunity in observing the fifth commandment. In honoring them we will abide by the principles in which they had implicit faith, and render service to the cause for which they worked, lived and died, to the end that we may remain away from the fleshpots of a modern Egypt, to the end that the promise given in the fifth commandment shall be fulfilled in our behalf, that our days shall be long upon the land which the Lord our God giveth us. "Long days upon the land" stimulates the thought that it may not mean days of mortality alone, but the days to come when our earth shall become celestialized and the dwelling place of those who shall enjoy and inherit the celestial kingdom, which I pray will be the blessing of every worthy father and mother and every loyal son and daughter in Israel. Amen.