“One of the great tasks of our time — one on which our diverse faith communities should be united — is to help people understand the true meaning and purpose of marriage,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a forum on marriage in New York City.
The Mormon apostle joined Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of the Congregation Shearith Israel in New York for the Humanum Colloquium in New York, Thursday, March 9, 2017. Rabbi Soloveichik is also director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Soloveichik commented on the importance of speaking about family in such a diverse setting. “It’s wonderful for people of one faith, facing challenges in this world, to both see old friends from another faith, and to make new friends from that faith,” he said. “That’s what makes moments like this so wonderful.”
“We are addressing a sober and serious subject,” Elder Bednar said. “In fulfilling their marriage covenant, husbands and wives perform distinct but complementary roles.”
In a time that many in society today prioritize their own desires over the needs of spouses and children, Elder Bednar stressed that marriage has divine origins.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” said Elder Bednar, quoting from the Church’s family proclamation. “This divinely designed pattern of marriage is neither an experiment nor a sociological innovation. Rather, it is a relationship ‘central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.’”
“We are losing the basic understanding that society has a unique and profound interest in marriage because of its power to form a male-female union that is the optimal setting for the bearing and rearing of children,” he added. “In marriage and family life, we learn and grow together as God intended.”
Elder Bednar said marriage allows us to focus on and serve others. “In marriage, we live not exclusively for ourselves but for our spouses and children and posterity.”
However, Elder Bednar said many people have a secular concept of marriage. “Influenced by this increasingly pervasive ideology of self-centeredness and selfishness, too often men and women pursue relationships and marriage focused on their own needs and desires rather than on building stable marital and family relationships.”
He said today’s “skewed conception of marriage” has serious and personal consequences that can lead to heartbreak, despair and divorce. A growing number of people are giving up on marriage. “Millions of children are being born into situations where they cannot experience the true nature and purpose of marriage and stable family life.”
“All people, especially the rising generation, need a vision of the richness of family life and its potential for developing the highest and best in each of us,” Elder Bednar said.
Cardinal Dolan expressed similar sentiments. “Everybody wants to be happy,” he said. “And if married couples can show that the way God intends for us to be happy is when a man and woman give themselves to one another totally and selflessly in a love so fruitful that it becomes incarnate in a baby is the happiest way to live, if we can reclaim that luster, folks, that will show the world the sanctity of marriage as God defined it.”
Cardinal Dolan said he wants people to remember that even though the world’s view of marriage is changing, “we’re not alone in our battle to defend the sanctity of marriage. You and I believe, without any touch of arrogance at all, that God is on our side.”
The New York City gathering follows an international and interreligious symposium on the complementarity of man and woman hosted by the Catholic Church at the Vatican in November 2014. At the gathering in Rome, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency called for a “renaissance of happy marriages.” In 2015, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on marriage and family at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the first time the event has been held in the United States.
Read Elder Bednar’s entire transcript.