The mass shooting on May 24 by an 18-year-old gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas was of such magnitude—killing 19 students and two teachers, and injuring 17 others—as to recall the tragedies at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. But these high-profile calamities are just the tip of the iceberg. In the week following the Uvalde murders, according to the Gun Violence Archive, America experienced another 18 mass shootings.
Swift and definitive action is surely needed to secure our schools and protect our children from gun violence. But speaking on the day after the Uvalde shooting, Utah Senator Mike Lee asked us to consider possible root causes.
Every time one of these tragedies occurs, I think we, for far too long, have failed to look back at the root causes of rampage violence. Why is our culture suddenly producing so many young men who want to murder innocent people? It raises questions like, could fatherlessness, the breakdown of families, isolation from civil society or the glorification of violence be contributing factors?
Two days later, former President Donald Trump declared, “We have got to deal with the problem of broken families because no law can cure the effects of a broken home. There is no substitute for a strong mom and a great dad.”
No substitute indeed, as leaders have long pointed out. “A nation without the family unit as its fundamental foundation,” declared LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith nearly a century ago, “could lead to but one end—anarchy and dissolution.” His reference to “a nation” means, of course, “any nation”—such as Mexico, for example, whose former director of DIF (National System for Integral Family Development), Ana Teresa Aranda, presciently warned years ago,
It is no secret that the vulnerability suffered by our peoples—insecurity, crime, abuse, abandonment of the elderly, orphaned children and violence—causes enormous imbalances and obliges us to spend millions on institutional policies that in the end can do no more than manage those ills. If we go on like this, a time will come when all our tax resources will not suffice to counter the effects of vulnerability. If we wish to address the causes, we must look at the family.
The foundational role of the family, including the dire consequences that ensue when it fails, has been a reality throughout history. Egyptology Professor John Gee has noted that the earliest records of the human race demonstrate that “when the family is destroyed, the impact on society is catastrophic: society ceases to exist as a functioning historical unit.”
Similarly in ancient China, the sage Confucius, who would be esteemed by historian Will Durant as history’s greatest thinker, declared at a time of decline that the Chinese states—indeed, “the whole world,” he asserted—could not be put in order without first putting in order the family.
Well did the wise drafters of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognize the universal and unchanging truth that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Such lessons from history thunder in our ears at this pivotal time when unprecedented family disintegration is rolling like a tsunami across America and the world. What President Ronald Reagan said of America is true for every country on earth: “The strength of our families is vital to the strength of our Nation.” To fail to address the breakdown of the family, no matter how many other issues are addressed, would be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as disaster looms.
We cannot wait any longer to safeguard society by protecting and promoting the family, that “universal community based on the marital union of a man and a woman” which, as we have previously declared, is “the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history” and the very “bedrock of society, the strength of our nations, and the hope of humanity.”
We must strengthen our own families and then reach out in alliance with other individuals and organizations to make our voice heard in government and every sector of society. We must courageously counter the anti-family culture and replace it with a family-friendly culture that honors marriage between a man and a woman as they build a refuge of love for themselves and their children. To secure our future, we must secure our foundation. And we must do it now.