Multiply and Replenish
Mormon Essays on Sex and Family

Mormon Ideas of Home
Stephen L Richards

[p.263]My friends, I propose for discussion this morning a very humble theme—one that is commonplace but I hope not cheap or unimportant. I speak of the home. What is the evolution of this noteworthy institution?

It would not be possible to trace even the outline of its history in the time allotted. May I, however, merely call attention to a few well recognized and outstanding facts concern it. The government initiated in and growing out of the home was the first known form of human government. The head of the family came to be the chieftain of the tribe or clan. The patriarchs were not only prophets they were law-givers.

Then too throughout the history of civilization, blood ties and race have been the strongest cohesive factors in the grouping of society. Many of the greatest nations have been but enlarged families with blood strains of remarkable purity. I do not mention this in argument against a rather pronounced tendency in modern times for cosmopolitan composition of our social and governmental groups, but merely to indicate the large part which the institution of home has played in sociology.

The home has ever been the center of economic interest. It has undoubtedly produced a greater part of the wealth of the world and it has also spent it.

It is the primary educational institution. Important as schools have been they have never occupied a position more than comple-[p.264]mentary to the home which is the nursery not only of all human beings but of all virtue.

Governments which have attained high places in the world’s history and affairs have, I think without exception, been those which have given due recognition to the home as a fundamental institution of society. They have enacted laws for its protection and advancement, and crimes against the home and its sanctity have been regarded as among the most heinous offenses.

In this connection I recall the statement of an eminent man who at one time, speaking in the British House of Parliament against the imposition of a tax on the homes of the poor, said, in substance, “My home may be a poor and rude one; the roof may leak; the wind may enter; the rain may enter, but the King of England with all his army cannot enter. My home is my castle, sacred and inviolate to me and my family.” Such a conception of home has lain at the very foundation of English and American law and government and that conception is in no small way responsible for the rights and liberties which we now enjoy.

What is its prospect in this dramatic evolution of persons, things and institutions which is now in process? I would not venture a sure prediction but I do agree with Dr. Henry Van Dyke who said that “If old-fashioned American family life vanishes nothing can take its place.”

What was an old-fashioned American home, or rather I should say, what is it, because I am thankful to note that there are still some such homes left in the land. You know what it is. You know that it is not just a house, however grand and imposing the house may be and however embellished it may be with costly furniture, rich hangings and floor coverings woven of the toil of far-off Persia. You know that it is not a mansion wherein reside a man and a woman, fretting under the bonds of a marriage contract, a poodle dog and a retinue of servants whose chief function it is to see that the three chief occupants of the house, the man, the wife, and the dog, enjoy equality of right and privilege. And you know that such an old-fashioned home is not ordinarily located among the costly residences of the rich. You know that it is usually to be found among the modest and humble, but not among the poor of the land for they are not truly poor who maintain a real home. You know that in an old-fashioned American home you [p.265]will find a large family of happy boys and girls, for whom father and mother willingly, patiently and lovingly devote lives of toil and service; not for ostentation and pride and the gratification of selfish desires but to fulfill high conceptions of duty and the laws of God. Are such homes happy?

I used to live in the heart of a city. My nearest neighbor lived in a real home. He had a yard in which his children might play. They had flowers and gardens, trees and welcome shade from the summer sun. His girls, educated, cultured, and refined, helped their mother with house work. His boys assisted in keeping up the place outside. They loved their home. It belonged to them all. The feeling of ownership and proprietorship was with them. It begat thrift, economy and industry. Their common interest stimulated mutual confidence and affection that cement and enrich the natural ties of family. They were happy and content and they were splendid citizens.

Most of the other people who resided in my neighborhood lived in large apartment houses, not in homes. Some few had children. These boys and girls had no yards, no gardens, no flowers, no places to play, no property to care for, and no responsibility. They came to my lot and my neighbor’s. I did not blame them. They had no place to go. They injured and destroyed the shrubs and lawns and other property. I forgave them. They had had nothing of their own of similar kind consequently they had never learned how to care for property.

The girls that lived in these apartments did not do house work. There was not much to be done and besides they had not time for it because it takes all the time of these girls to take care of themselves. It is a big job. Their first task of the day is to prepare themselves for public presentation. I have not time to describe the perplexities of that operation. Suffice it to say that it requires a very great deal of labor and material to produce the finished product. There are the daily movies, the teas, the auto rides, the dances and the cabarets all requiring constant re-arrangement of toilet and appearance and involving an immense expenditure of energy. These girls of the apartments are really hard-working girls. They have my sympathy but like the boys they do not have good homes and I fear they are not learning to be real women.

Yet this life of the apartment is the new home life; perhaps here [p.266]depicted in the extreme. Its advocates say that it is more desirable than the old home life; that it has more conveniences, ease and luxury and less of work and responsibility. They clinch the argument by declaring that it costs less. It does and it is worth less. The old-fashioned American family life costs more but it is worth more. It costs more in work, self-sacrifice, patience, sleepless nights, heart-aches, and loving service, but the smile of a babe, the kiss of a beautiful daughter, and the handclasp of a manly boy are worth more than all the cost.

The cry of the world is for men and women. I know of no place where they can be found except in the homes of the people. The homes which produce real men and women must be presided over and maintained by men of strength and courage, of virtue and of vision. and by women of tenderness, unselfishness and infinite patience and love endowments of God for the motherhood of the race. Good living is the first requirement of every parent. God pity the unfortunate parent who comes to the realization, as some day all must surely do, that the sins of the child are chiefly attributable to his or her own bad example or neglect.

Criminologists tell us that most of our delinquencies originate in bad or neglected homes. Economists say that the training of the home is largely responsible for the thrift, industry, and prosperity of the nation. Doctors advise us that the health of the people depends on its care and teachings, and the eugenist assures us that the whole trend of human happiness, intelligence, goodness, and endurance depends on it.

Do you know that statisticians have scientifically calculated that the United States will support a population of not to exceed two hundred million people, and that we are very rapidly approaching “this point of saturation”? The character of the nation and its destiny depend almost entirely on the families who shall make up the two hundred million. Will they be families descended from the old stocks of America who set up her great institutions and who have fought for and fostered her liberty, her equity and her justice, or will they be families in the stream of whose blood does not course the great impulse, the indomitable will, and idealism which have been and are the genius of our Democracy? Such questions must give pause and concern to every lover of America.

[p.267]To the members of our church the home has an enlarged significance that is subordinate to nothing else in life, for it constitutes not only the source of our greatest happiness here in this life, but also the foundation of our exaltation and glory in the life to come. After all, it is essentially a religious institution. It has its origin in religious ceremony. It is the fulfillment of divine command. Its government is of a religious nature, and the finest of its products are spiritual.

So it is here in the humble and yet exalted institution of the home that I find the greatest opportunity and mission for men and women. I am sorry to say, however, that the record does not in all cases disclose a very creditable response to this big opportunity and obligation. Modern education has not always produced good home-makers. Recently published data informs us that the average number of children in the families of the bootblacks of America is slightly over four, while the average number of children in the families of school teachers is slightly under two. Now it may be that two school teachers exercise more and better influence than four bootblacks, but how long will it take on the present respective rates of increase for the bootblacks to crowd out the school teachers? I present this illustration from a popular scientist, not in derogation of people who follow humble vocations, but to emphasize the fact that the world supply of intelligence, goodness, and beauty is largely a matter of propagation.

There is in this respect a traditional and rather well advertised distinction which our people enjoy. They have been noted for their large families and had they been better understood they would be famous for their good families. Children have been our best crop and in the good old homes there has been an abundance of them. Eight, ten, and a dozen in a family were common numbers.

What families they have been! In days of privation and striving how they have stood together! The sacrifices which they have made, one for another; the love, the service, and nobility which have come from these great homes will probably never be known to many, but those who know of it and speak of the accomplishments of our church in the first century of its existence mention first the noble fathers and mothers who in log cabins of the frontier or mansions of luxury have served faithfully as priests and priestesses in the temple of the home.

Our church calls to its members and to all people to maintain the [p.268]integrity, the purity, and the high purposes of this sacred institution. I trust that no one will ever so yield to the insidious appeals of selfishness, vanity, and the world, as to be swerved from so doing.

To warn of a great danger I must speak of it more specifically. I do so most reverently. If it shall please the Lord to send to your home a goodly number of children, I hope, I pray, you will not deny them entrance. If you should, it would cause you infinite sorrow and remorse. One has said that he could wish his worst enemy no more hell than this, that in the life to come someone might approach him and say, “I might have come down into the land of America and done good beyond computation, but if I came at all I had to come through your home and you were not man enough or woman enough to receive me. You broke down the frail footway on which I must cross and then you thought you had done a clever thing.”

I said that for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the home had a great religious significance. We believe that the marriage compact is not for life only or until death doth part, but for all eternity; that when the covenant is entered into in the proper manner and place and sealed by the power of the Holy Priesthood, which is the delegated authority of God to man, it becomes an everlasting union, an eternal institution into which there shall enter all children born in such wedlock, and that the ties of kinship so created are eternal ties recognized in heaven as on earth. Our heaven is little more than a projection of the sacred institutions of our homes into eternity. The spirits of men, which are the literal children of the Father, are by him permitted to take on mortality through a home, it being the chief purpose of the administrators of the home to guide the spirits so entrusted to their keeping back to the eternal presence whence they came. So it is that we strive so diligently to maintain our children in the bond of this eternal covenant and union. We do not fear death because death does not break this bond. We must all go by way of it to find place in the eternal family circle. But we do fear sin that may deprive us of the presence of a loved one when we meet in our future homes.

We deplore divorce. It strikes at the very foundation of the home. The number of divorces among our people is very low.

Perhaps this mere glimpse into our philosophy of life and heaven and exaltation will serve to justify our undying interest in the homes [p.269]of the people. We rely on these institutions to produce the manhood and the womanhood for the church and the nation. Respect for law, order and established institutions must come from good family life if it comes at all. Boys and girls who grow up to call father “the old man” and mother “the old woman” are not likely to be easily amenable to the necessary restrictions which society imposes. If they cannot respect and love home and parents, their affection and regard for any worthy cause and institution are doubtful.

STEPHEN L RICHARDS (1879-1959) was a member of Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and head of its missionary program. “Mormon Ideas of Home” was first delivered as a CBS radio address on 16 June 1935 and was later published in pamphlet form.