Monday, November 17, 2008

Sacrament Meeting Talk (11/16/08) "The Proclamation to the World"

“The Proclamation to the World”: the Purpose, the Power, and the Promise.

Purpose - The Lord has given us “The Family: The Proclamation to the World” in order to warn us against the threats to our families and to allow us to prepare and protect ourselves.

1 Cor. 14:8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? “The Proclamation to the World” is a certain sound and a warning trumpet!

President Packer “I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now.”Boyd K. Packer, “The One Pure Defense” (address to CES religious educators, Feb. 6, 2004), 4.

I know a little about Sodom and Gomorrah. I have heard a Prophet of God apply that description to Copenhagen. In Denmark, in 1973, I saw the future of the family in a secular and progressive society, with its tolerance and self-indulgence, with its lack of eternal context.

From Lehi to Moroni, Book of Mormon prophets saw our day; that future day is now upon us. They saw the wickedness that would come upon this land. They saw pride, when men would deny the power of God (Mormon 8:28-41). They saw people confused and lost in mists of darkness (1 Nephi 8:23-24; 12:17). They saw good called evil and evil good, and people caught up in self-indulgence, with no consideration for the consequences (2 Ne. 28:8). Paul also saw the future that is our present. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).

The financial world President Hinckley described in 1998 is now here, as is the moral world the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve saw in 1995 in “The Proclamation to the World”.

President Hinckley “I believe this is the best season for women in all the history of the world. In opportunities for education, for the training of your hands and minds, there has never before been a time when doors were so widely opened to you as they are today.

“But neither has there been a time, at least in recent history, when you have been confronted with more challenging problems. I need not remind you that the world we are in is a world of turmoil, of shifting values. Shrill voices call out for one thing or another in betrayal of time-tested standards of behavior. The moral moorings of our society have been badly shaken. So many of the youth of the world, and likewise so many of their elders, listen only to the seductive voice of self-gratification.

“With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov 1995

The future of yesterday’s tomorrow is now here. It is already in the “progressive” parts of the world. In northern Europe, marriages are at an all time low. When they finally happen, the couple are older. Fewer and fewer marriages contemplate children. The replacement rate is 1.2 to 1.4, meaning that each succeeding generation is but 2/3’s the size of the former.

Elder Ballard “Far too many people view marriage as a “couples relationship,” designed to fulfill the emotional needs of adults rather than an institution for rearing children. Children are considered a choice rather than a blessing... Almost every trend indicates that we are on a slippery slope downward from God’s plan for His children. The family, once universally hailed as the cornerstone of society, is losing its essential role.” M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, Mar 2006, 26–33

President Hinckley “How bitter are the fruits of casting aside standards of virtue. The statistics are appalling. More than one-fourth of all children born in the United States are born out of wedlock, and the situation grows more serious. Of the teens who give birth, 46 percent will go on welfare within four years; of unmarried teens who give birth, 73 percent will be on welfare within four years.” Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 98

The future is already in Europe, and on the west coast and on the east coast. It is in Hollywood and on TV, in movies and in music. And so, the proclamation was given as a prophetic response to the things that were happening in the world and those that would yet happen.

Elder Ballard “As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in the process of drafting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It was a remarkable experience for all of us. As Church leaders travel the world, we see things—both within the Church and outside the Church. We were troubled by much of what we were seeing. We could see the people of the world wanting to define the family in ways contrary to God’s eternal plan for the happiness of His children.

“In the midst of all that was stirring on this subject in the world, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles could see the importance of declaring to the world the revealed, true role of the family in the eternal plan of God. We worked together, through the divinely inspired council system that operates even at the highest levels of the Church, to craft a proclamation that would make the Lord’s position on the family so clear that it could not be misunderstood. M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, Mar 2006, 26–33

It saw, and understood, the past with spiritual eyes. It saw the escalated attacks of the future as if they had already happened. It foresaw the effects of those attacks on families relative to God’s plan of happiness for His children.

It is rare, and noteworthy, when we receive a statement signed by all of those currently bearing the apostolic mantle.

President Joseph Fielding Smith “Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.” “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” Ensign, July 1972, 88.

We may be confident that this warning represents the mind and will of the Lord to us for our day.

Elder Eyring “Because our Father loves his children, he will not leave us to guess about what matters most in this life concerning where our attention could bring happiness or our indifference could bring sadness. Sometimes he will tell a person such things directly, by inspiration. But he will, in addition, tell us these important matters through his servants. In the words of the prophet Amos, recorded long ago, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). He does this so that even those who cannot feel inspiration can know, if they will only listen, that they have been told the truth and have been warned.” Henry B. Eyring, The Family,” Ensign, Feb 1998, 12

The attacks on the family are intentional and are a continuation of the war that commenced in heaven before this earth was created. The proclamation exposes the current attacks as not just being the progressivism of modern society, but the purposeful work of the father of all lies, in his work to make all men miserable like unto himself.

President Wilford Woodruff, in October Conference, 1896 - “There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it.” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2004), 220.

Similar comments have recently been made by President Hinckley, President Faust, and Elder Hamula.

The Proclamation warns us that a terrible peril is upon us and that we should flee from it. Look back to Southeast Asia at Christmas time of 2004. If you had forewarning of the tsunami, how close would you have wanted to be? How long would you have stayed? How many more trinkets and souvenirs and vacation photos would you have lingered to acquire?

Today, we are warned to not be a part of the world, to not follow after its temptations.

We are wise to heed President George Albert Smith’s warning to those involved in real war. “If you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the spirit of the Lord.” Sharing the Gospel with Others, ed. Preston Nibley (1948), 43.

To paraphrase Elder Maxwell, the days are past when we could lightly have our home in Zion, but keep a summer place in Babylon.

This peril, this threat, is intended to strike at the very heart of God’s eternal plan of happiness for all of His children.

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

"Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

Elder Ballard “When you stop and think about it from a diabolically tactical point of view, fighting the family makes sense... When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and he attacks God’s plan for His children. He works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical. That’s all it takes, because Satan knows that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord’s work is to diminish the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home.” M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, Mar 2006, 26–33

Every attack against the family is an attack against the eternal plan of our God!

The Proclamation establishes the central place of marriage and the family in God’s eternal plan and in the world. Marriage is the foundation of the family, with the husband as the cornerstone. He is to preside. Properly positioned, the family takes their orientation off of him. It also gives us clear direction for building celestial families. It gives us the strong timbers of the eternal family.

“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

Power – Those who honor and obey this warning and counsel will receive power, through their prayers, faith, and priesthood, to call down the powers of heaven in order to receive its promised blessings.

It will not be easy to live according to its counsel. It is so contrary to the ways of the world and to the prince of this world. The adversary will fight you and your children as you work in faith to live according to it. You will not be able to do it alone, but you don’t have to.

You will seek the Lord’s guidance and then you will be obedient, and obedience will empower your faith.

Elder Eyring “We may have to pray with faith to know what we are to do, and after obtaining such knowledge we must pray with a determination to obey. But we can know what to do and be sure that the way has been prepared for us by the Lord. As we read what the proclamation tells us about the family, we can expect—in fact, we must expect—impressions to come to our minds as to what we are to do. And we can be confident it is possible for us to do according to those impressions.” Henry B. Eyring, The Family,” Ensign, Feb 1998, 12

The Lord always sends strength and power to those who are obedient and live by faith.

Recall the stories of support He has sent. Alma freeing the people of Limhi from captivity. Nephites and Lamanites at the time of His birth.

You will pray in faith for the support you will need.

You will pray in faith for your marriage, to have the strength to live up to the high counsel and instructions of the proclamation. You have faith because you have exerted yourself and sacrificed to improve your marriage in accordance with its counsel. You have faith because you have experienced the Lord’s tender mercies in your marriage as you have honored your sacred covenants.

You will pray in faith for your children, that they may resist the pull of the world. You have faith because you have taught them diligently. You have taught them the gospel in family home evening. You have taken the words of Christ in your mouth daily as you read from holy scripture. You have taught them to pray in family prayer. You have taught them of the atonement and the Savior’s love for them through the sacred covenants of baptism and the sacrament. You will have taught them “in such a way that they could not misunderstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. You have faith because you have kept the covenants you made when you received the priesthood and in the temple.

You will pray in faith that the Lord will daily help you provide the means to support your family. In the troubling times we face, that will be a frequently offered prayer.

You will pray in faith that you may understand the threats that your family is facing, that you might prepare them and protect them.

You will pray in faith that you may meet the individual needs of your family as you follow the guidance to nurture them. You have faith because of the many hours you have spent serving them. You have faith because of the many hours you have spent on your knees praying for their benefit.

You will pray in faith for your friends and neighbors, who are looking for refuge from this same storm. You will invite them to functions that demonstrate the time-honored dignity of fathers and mothers. You will share with them your experiences with prayer and faith for your family, where you have felt the hand of God lifting you up. You will share your testimony of the gospel and of living prophets in quiet, heartfelt moments, when the Spirit is close.

Because you know that Isaiah prophesied that in the last days, people will be searching for truth and will seek out God and His ways.

Isaiah 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Elder Ballard “If we live and act upon this knowledge, we will attract the world to us. Parents who place a high priority on their families will gravitate to the Church because it offers the family structure, values, doctrine, and eternal perspective that they seek and cannot find elsewhere.” M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest,” Liahona, Nov 2005, 41–44

But faith alone may not be enough.

You will call down the powers of heaven by the power of the Holy Priesthood as you feel your responsibilities as a father more acutely. And you will be joined by your eternal companion, according to your covenants.

You will lay your hands on the heads of your family members; to bless them with the power to resist temptation, to bless them with outpourings of the Spirit that they might be strengthened in their testimony, to bless them with courage and hope in times of discouragement.

You will raise your right arm to the square to bless and consecrate your home, that it might be a refuge from the temptations of the world.

You will work miracles, prompted by the Holy Spirit, in your hours of need. You will heal their spirits as well as their bodies. You will turn back the forces of evil. You will speak prophetic words given you in the very moment. You will see the threats before they are manifest. You will receive a renewing of your body, and you will run and not be weary and walk and not faint.

You will have the testimony that God supports His children as they seek to serve Him.

And He will send angels to lift you up as you struggle to follow His counsel.

Elder Holland “My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “[N]or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved. Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men;” Moroni 7:36-37, Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 29–31

Promise – Those who abide by the counsel and vision of “The Proclamation to the World” will one day see the fulfillment of its promises, namely that they will be united as eternal families, having overcome the world. As you strive to live up to the counsel, wisdom, and vision of the proclamation, you will become the patriarchs and matriarchs of eternity. You will lay claim to the promises and assurances of God’s prophets in every dispensation regarding those who keep His commandments and follow His counsel.

D&C 84:88 And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

D&C 1:37-38 37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. 38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

D&C 82:8-10 8 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you; 9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. 10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

The Proclamation to the World was given to us in our day, to meet the challenges of our day.

It was given to warn us of the threats to the family, which God Himself established in order to bring about eternal life.

The strength and power we will need to resist the adversary will come to us as we reject the world and follow this counsel in prayer and faith.

God will reward our faith and sacrifice by supporting us in this life and raising our families up in the eternities.

I testify that this is true and that we are led by a living prophet in these trying times,
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

The Proclamation to the World

I spoke in church yesterday on "The Proclamation to the World". It was a timely topic given the two recent propositions on the ballot in AZ and CA.

Each one dealt with the definition of marriage and each passed. There have been angry protests around the country directed at the church for its participation. In fact, neither is likely to have passed without LDS support, since we provided half the money and 90% of the volunteers. Marissa told us last night that some of her LDS friends in MA are experiencing what amounts to religious harassment from bosses who are gay or at least gay-sympathetic.

I should say here that preparing for this talk was one of the most powerful and moving spiritual experiences I've had in many years. The talk seemed to flow from the very time I began preparing. The key points of "purpose, power, and promise" came even before I began to study. The key points under each of those came almost like I was dictating. The most powerful messages from the talks I read fit naturally into the framework of the talk. Many times when studying, and even more as I was writing, the power of the words and of the Spirit brought me to involuntary tears.

I'm going to add the talk to the next post, but I'd like to call out a couple of impressions I had while preparing that I didn't emphasize in the talk as deeply as I felt them.

First, we are entering a time of separation, where the world and the church will become more and more explicitly separate. Certainly, this has been happening since the church was restored, but it is different now. Until now, I think it has been possible to live on one edge of the church and on the other edge of society and be generally accepted by both, as if the two circles partially overlapped. Those two circles are reaching the point where there isn't an overlap any more. The overlap is going away with respect to the role of the family, which is exactly the point of The Proclamation.

In this and other areas, a darker and darker line is being drawn between what we see as good and what we see as worldly. We are in the days when the members of the church are increasingly going to have to choose between the world and the church. This will cause friction in the church as people, who once were friends, find themselves on opposite sides. In many cases, it will feel like a divorce, with people on both sides of each issues lining up friends and supporters to justify themselves. It is reminiscent of Jesus' disciples who, having heard hard doctrine, no longer walked with Him. In a different sense, it is reminiscent of Lehi's family's departure into the wilderness because righteousness could no longer co-habit with wickedness, except we don't have to move (yet). Kind of like serving a local mission. In the end, it may have been easier to have gotten all the way out. As it is, we must live the gospel in the midst of the siren call of the world.

The separation, and the declarations of our separateness, of our mutual exclusivity, are necessary as a clear warning, to those who have made covenants, that there is no way to live in the world without surrendering to it. The ways of the world, once a gentle stream, have become a flood-swollen river. Once, we could wade along the banks, even swim out in its current and return safely. Today, the currents are too strong for even the strongest to swim against, and the result is to be swept downstream and drowned.

So, the church is posting "no swimming" signs. It is warning people of the danger from the currents. Some protest, saying, "we've always been able to swim here before." Some think it alarmist, some overly protective. Some resent the restriction of freedom.

Those not of the church continue to swim as before. The excitement of riding the fast currents are an added attraction. But from their vantage point, they cannot see the tragic outcome downstream.

They poke fun at the silly people on the bank who are too afraid to get in the water. They resent efforts to close the beach as a public nuisance. For them, it is not enough that they may choose to swim. The beach must be open so there is no wagging finger against their foolish choices.

The point is that the world is becoming too wicked to be a part of and that gap will continue to widen. The difference will become clearer and clearer, even and especially to those outside the church, both for and against us. We may expect the Prophet, the First Presidency, and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to continue to take clear and definitive stands in opposition to the erosion of values in the world. And most important, there is no safety in any other place or position than the one defined by those prophets.

The second point is that, oddly, following the prophet alone may not be enough, and may not even be the purpose.

In these last days of tribulation, when all of the fury of hell is brought against the kingdom and the saints of God, to prevent it from accomplishing its purpose, each of us may be required to work miracles, by faith and priesthood, in order to survive, in order to protect our families.

Here, I need to go back many years to recount an experience that touches on a similar subject.

While a missionary in Esbjerg in early 1974, just as I was starting the second year of my mission, the church extended the call to put away a year's supply to the all the saints in Europe. It was a big deal. Until that point, the saints abroad were under the assumption that when the trials and tribulations of the last days arrived, they would be called to Zion, where the good saints in Utah (not meant to be an oxymoron) would have saved up enough for everyone. They would have been sadly disappointed. The new counsel meant that the Danish saints would be riding out the tough times in Denmark.

For the first time, I came to understand the depth of faith of those Danish saints as they sold precious possessions in order to put away a year's supply. In many cases, it equalled the stories of saints that sold everything to make the trek to a distant temple.

While visiting a young married couple in the branch, they asked two heartfelt questions to a couple of young missionaries that had less experience in this world than they did.

First, where would they put all the food for them and their newborn in a small two-bedroom apartment? We counseled to put it under the bed.

The second question was more difficult. "We believe the commandment that we should love our neighbor as our self. If we store food, when our neighbors are starving, we could not deny them, but that would only mean that we would all starve anyway, just a couple of weeks later." As missionaries, we didn't have an answer.

A month later, in April 1974 general conference, Elder Theodore M. Burton, an assistant to the council of the twelve, spoke on the Spirit of Elijah and of putting away food storage. He addressed the issue of sharing food, as opposed to shooting those who would come to take it. And then he provided the answer.

"I sincerely believe if we do everything in our power to be obedient to the will of God, we and our families will never lack. If we are obedient as true followers of Christ and share what we have with those less fortunate than we, the Lord will keep his promise to watch over us and care for us. I will then be glad that I have stores of food on hand so I can be of assistance to others. Perhaps like the widow who fed Elijah, the meal will then never fail in our barrels nor the oil ever fail in our cruses until prosperity comes again. "

In that moment, as powerfully as the Holy Ghost had ever spoken to me, I felt that the solution God would provide was that priesthood holders in every home would work the miracle of Elijah, and that the sacrifice of putting the food stores aside would create the faith necessary to work the miracle. The food storage itself wasn't as important as the faith required to follow the prophet and obey the counsel.

We were so excited for this answer, so sure of the teachings from the Holy Ghost, that we immediately got on our bikes to ride out to our members apartment to share the good news. We lent them our copy of the Ensign until their copy of Danske Strjernet (now the Liahona) arrived a month or so later.

I had the same feeling as I prepared this talk. The times ahead will become so wicked, so poisonous, that it will not be possible to survive spiritually without miraculous intervention. I don't think we know what trials and threats lie ahead, both physical and spiritual. The miracles may expose threats to our family members, they may intervene in retaining a job, they may prompt us to move. I have this very strong conviction that fathers and mothers will need to live closer to the spirit, and that the priesthood of the fathers will need to be deployed to hold off the powers of evil as they attempt to attack the family.

With that said, I'll post the talk next.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fill up, Move on, and Pray again (Dan Jones)

We had stake conference, which was one of the church's first televised conferences in order to stretch the contact the saints have with the general authorities.

Of all the talks, I was most touched by Elder Jay Jensen. He told a story of the colonization of central Arizona.

The first expedition to the Phoenix area had run out of water as they were heading into the desert of central Arizona. Their leader retired to a quiet place to pray for relief. That night it froze and snowed and the party was able to capture enough of it to fill their barrels and head back to Utah.

Brigham Young asked for a report of the expedition from the leader and received the previous report. He then turned to Dan Jones and asked his opinion. Jones paused for a while and then responded, "I'd have filled up, moved on, and prayed again." President Young declared that this was the man that would lead the next expedition.

Jones came back the next year and laid the foundation for a settlement called Lehi, later named Mesa. The settlers cleared the clogged and abandoned Hohokam canals and began to irrigate the land and establish a permanent colony.

Elder Jensen's telling of the story came as a response to how to deal with the trials that will come our way. To have faith, rely on the Lord's blessings, but push on.

Proposition 102

Yesterday morning, I distributed material in our neighborhood for the proposition to change Arizona's constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

It is controversial in the world and in the church, since the church has been highly influential with the members for both volunteers and contributions.

Personally, I believe that the GLBT folks intent is to establish personal sexual identity and choice as an equivalent lifestyle to traditional marriage and relationships, to make it completely normal, eaning, that the world would have to deal with them with as little differentiation as they would between men and women, black and white, old and young, left handed and right handed, blond and brunette.

It will become a part of the schooling, the news, the popular culture. Those who take a contrary viewpoint will be even more vilified than at present, with legal consequences.

One only has to see how far the "left" has gone on feminism to imagine where this will go. Over the past 40 years, radical feminism has taken control of the debate and insists not just on "equality" but that there is NO DIFFERENCE between men and women. In order to establish this point, they have badgered women of every opinion to abandon their marriages, abandon their homes, and abandon their children, in pursuit of their own identity and fulfillment. They have demeaned the traditional contributions of women, even for those who continue to make that choice. They were not content until every woman and every institution validated their viewpoint

In another 40 years, we may see ALL sexual behavior defined as "normal", there being no difference or rightness placed in any choice. At that point, they will promote a full spectrum of sexual experimentation as a necessary part of normal development for every child, else how will they truly be free of the anachronistic labels of the past.

Saying such things in the world today gets you branded as a lunatic. They say, "We want no such thing. We only want our civil rights. We just want to be treated equally."

Some of you have heard me tell this story from my mission. Since this is meant as something of a journal, I'll tell it again here so that it is recorded forever.

As I began my second year in the Copenhagen Denmark Mission, I was transferred to Esbjerg, a fishing town on the southwest coast. Its fishing harbor looked a lot like Ballard's. I was transferred there as the junior companion to the District Leader, ostensibly so I could take his place at the next transfer.

Each Sunday we met with the Branch mission leader, Ole Petersen. Over the course of the next eight months, the following story about his 15 year old son played out.

I should explain first the nature of the European educational systems at the time, since they are so different from those in the U.S. Education is rationed because they do not have enough money to pour resources into kids that are not likely to use it and beyond what their own economy can use.

At the end of the 8th grade, as kids turn 14, they are tested. Those scoring in the top half get to stay in school. The bottom half are placed in apprenticeships to be service workers, building trades, farmers, etc.

At the end of 10th grade, as they turn 16, they are tested again. The top half go on to college prep and university. The bottom half go on to technical school to be secretaries, bookkeepers, etc. If you fail any class during this time, it is the same as failing the test.

The point is that by the time you get to go to your first dance, your whole life and career may be decided. That's a lot of pressure to put on 13 and 15 year olds. And the only way to undo it would be to pay for it yourself, and since they have a 53% tax rate, that is virtually impossible.

(In the end, I think we get to the same place in the US, but we maintain the sense of equal opportunity and access longer.)

At the beginning of his 10th grade, Ole's son was given the expectations for the health class. 50% of their grade would be based on a final paper. At the end of the year, they would go on a three day, two night trip. The students were to pair up. Boy and girl, boy and boy, girl and girl, it didn't matter. Their paper was to detail the experience. The assignment dealt with living together and sexual relations was a mandatory part of the assignment.

For the president of the teacher's quorum, this was terrifying. He knew he could not complete the assignment without breaking his covenants. He knew that to fail the assignment would alter his life forever.

We prayed often with Bro. Petersen and his family. We had a branch fast. During the year, Ole and his wife petitioned the school, but without success. Jan, his son, continued to plead with his instructor, also without success.

It was at that point that I was transferred to Skanderborg and then four months later released to return home.

Years later, Gayle and I went back to Denmark. Because I had spent more than a third of my mission in Esbjerg, I arranged for us to spend one of our Sundays there. We found a place in the back of the chapel. As the members came in, there were many that I knew and had a chance to chat with. After the meeting started, I noticed a young family several rows in front of us; beautiful young parents about 30 with four little tow heads.

At some point, I recognized the father as the teachers quorum president we had prayed so much over. After Sacrament Meeting, I made my way to him and asked the question that had to be asked. After learning that he had finished college and was working as an engineer, I asked, "So, what happened?"

Late in the year, with prayer and fasting continuing the entire time, Jan went one more time to his instructor to explain how important it was to him to keep his promise to be chaste until marriage. For the first time, his instructor seemed moved. He said he'd consider it. A few days later, he came back with a decision. The reason for requiring every student to have sex was because "you couldn't write a paper about sex without having any experience with sex." The instructor would allow Jan to write his paper about "choosing not to have sex" since abstinence could be considered a sexual experience.

You may draw your own lessons from this story. There are many. Fasting and prayer works. God will not forget those who keep their covenants.

But with respect to where this debate on marriage is going, I think I have already seen the future in Denmark 35 years ago.