Second Coming: The Disintegration of the Family

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Almost 20 years ago, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” President Hinckley shared it for the first time at a general Relief Society meeting on September 23, 1995. He gave it as part of a talk entitled, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the Devil.” Before he read the proclamation publicly, he introduced it with these words:

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.

To me the most chilling sentence in the document is near the end: “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

How has the traditional family held up in recent years? Here are a few telling indicators. I’ll let you judge and draw your own conclusions about these statistics.

  • In 2013, more than 41 percent of births in the United States were to unmarried women. The number was 5 percent in 1960. The following analyses of this trend comes from the Child Trends data bank and cites 15 studies:

    Children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to grow up in a single-parent household, experience instable living arrangements, live in poverty, and have socio-emotional problems. . . . As these children reach adolescence, they are more likely to have low educational attainment, engage in sex at a younger age, and have a birth outside of marriage. . . .  As young adults, children born outside of marriage are more likely to be idle (neither in school nor employed), have lower occupational status and income, and have more troubled marriages and more divorces than those born to married parents. . . .

  • Between 1973 and 2011, some 53 million legal abortions took place in the United States. In 2011, 85.5 percent of abortions were performed for unmarried women.
  • In spite of some statistics to the contrary, divorce rates have not declined but continue to be high though these rates may have flattened because younger people tend to wait longer to get married and cohabitation is now commonplace. 
  • Last fall (2014), the marriage rate reached a 93-year low with a rate of 50.3 percent for Americans ages 18 and older (this rate includes same-sex couples). The highest marriage rate occurred in 1960 when it reached 72.2 percent. 
  • A synopsis of the book The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (The National Academies Press, 2014) states:
  • The rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world’s prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly 1 out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is 5 to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies. The U.S. prison population is largely drawn from the most disadvantaged part of the nation’s population: mostly men under age 40, disproportionately minority, and poorly educated. Prisoners often carry additional deficits of drug and alcohol addictions, mental and physical illnesses, and lack of work preparation or experience.

  • Between 2007 and 2014, a Pew Research report shows that those claiming to be unaffiliated with any religion grew from 16.1 to 22.8 percent, an increase of 6.7 percent, while Catholics and evangelical and mainline Protestants declined in numbers. 

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ asked, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (see Matthew 7:16). In other words, “Can you pluck sweet fruit from noxious weeds?” The answer is, of course, no. Weeds prosper when the garden is neglected, and many families in the early 21st century are withering.

Stable families are the foundation of a stable society. Without strong, united families, society will unravel. I believe that, though much of society may unravel, many traditional families from all walks of life will remain intact and strong until the Savior appears, and that those families will be a means of spiritual and physical survival for many who are standing on the earth on that great and dreadful day. 

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