Posted by: 2thdocbob | 19 August 2018

Strengthening Marriage, Home and Family

This talk was given on August 19, 2018 in the Highlands Ward in San Bernardino, California. As a member of the Stake High Council, it was my privilege to prepare and deliver this message.

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Good morning, brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to be with today, to worship with you and to feel of your spirit. I am grateful for the long friendships that I have enjoyed with many of you.

I pray that Spirit will be with us this morning, that we all may be strengthened by this important message.

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We have heard much about the importance of families over the last few years. I hope you are not tired of hearing it. The only thing more important in our Heavenly Father’s plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We continue to study the Book of Mormon individually and as families. I love the Book of Mormon. I love to study it and to feel the spirit that comes from this great book of scripture. I testify to you that it is the word of God, given to us for our day.

The Book of Mormon begins with a family. Lehi’s family was probably an ordinary family in Jerusalem, perhaps wealthier than most. It becomes clear that even though dad was a prophet, they were not a perfect family. They had some serious struggles. Indeed, we may well call them a dysfunctional family.

In the Book of First Nephi, we learn that Lehi taught his family the gospel. Imagine what those family home evenings were like! He taught his children to work. They participated in wholesome recreational activities together: they went hiking, camping, and hunting. They even went on a cruise together, although they had to build the boat first.

Lehi remained true to gospel teachings, in spite of death threats from outside and inside the family. He did murmur against the Lord during the broken bow incidents but responded positively to Nephi’s chastisements, and repented.

We learn a great lesson in 1 Nephi Chapter 5, when Sariah criticized Lehi, and he responded “yes, dear, I know I’m a visionary man.” Brethren, that is a man to follow.

Despite all the struggles, Lehi kept his family together. We read that he exhorted them “with all the feeling of a tender parent.”[1] That phrase touches me deeply. His concern for both his wayward children and his obedient children lasted until his dying breath.

Why is this important to us?

First, it reminds us that the Book of Mormon was written for our day, with many lessons that we can learn and apply.

Second, through the Book of Mormon narratives, we can learn the doctrine of the family.

President Kimball spoke of the family in the opening address of October 1980 General Conference. He told us

“We have always understood that the foundations of the family, as an eternal unit, were laid even before this earth was created!

“Therefore, whenever anything so basic as the eternal family is imperiled, we have a solemn obligation to speak out, lest there be critical damage to the family institution by those who seem to be deliberately destructive of it.”[2]

Remember, this was in 1980!

He continued,

“The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us.”

“There are those who would define the family in such a nontraditional way that they would define it out of existence.

“We of all people, brothers and sisters, should not be taken in by the specious arguments that the family unit is somehow tied to a particular phase of development a mortal society is going through. We are free to resist those moves which downplay the significance of the family … We know the family to be eternal. …

 “The decline in many of our families is occurring at a time when the nations of the world are moving into some of the most difficult times known.

“Our political institutions … cannot rescue us if our basic institution, the family, is not intact. Peace treaties cannot save us when there is hostility instead of love in the home. … Law enforcement cannot safeguard us if too many people are unwilling to discipline themselves or be disciplined.”[3]

Brothers and sisters, these are the words of a prophet of God, nearly 38 years ago.

How many of you have flown somewhere and heard the pilot warn of approaching turbulence and ask you to fasten your seatbelts? When you hear this announcement, you pay attention. The prophets have been asking us to fasten our spiritual seatbelts for as long as there have been prophets. And there is certainly turbulence today. These warnings have increased in frequency and in fervency in the last few years.

How can we effectively defend and protect our families and our homes?

First, we must understand what the doctrine of the family is, and what it is based on. We need to recognize the threats to the family, to marriage, and to the home so we know what we are fighting against and can prepare ourselves. And we need to remember our covenants and be true to them.

The doctrine of the family teaches us that the family is the basic unit for mankind here and in the eternities. We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who is a living example of this eternal law.

The Creation provided a place where families could live. God created a man and a woman who were the two essential halves of a family. And it was a part of his plan that Adam and Eve be sealed and form an eternal family themselves.

The Fall provided a way for the family to grow. Adam and Eve chose to have a mortal experience and to honor their covenant to multiply and replenish the earth. And what a privilege it is to be descended from these amazing people!

The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together for eternity. The plan of happiness, or the plan of salvation is centered in the family.

When we speak of qualifying for eternal life, it means qualifying for the blessings of eternal families. These blessings are available to all who are faithful, even if they have not had the opportunity to enjoy these blessings in this life.

This privilege was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, as described in the Doctrine & Covenants:

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”[4]

These verses speak of temple blessings—the ordinances and covenants without which “the whole earth would be utterly wasted.” I find it significant that these verses are the only verses which can be found in each of the four Standard Works. That gives us a sense of the importance of this message.

Through the restoration of priesthood keys, we may receive the promises of eternal life in family units through our temple covenants.

In these temple covenants, we are also promised the blessings of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What are these blessings?

In Abraham, Chapter 1, Abraham tells us that he sought “the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer; … to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, … and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.”[5]

These blessings come only to those who have a temple sealing and marriage. A man cannot become a “father or many nations” without being sealed to his wife. And he could not hold the right belonging to the fathers without a wife who held the right belonging to the mothers.

These covenant blessings are all contingent upon our righteousness.

Finally, we need to understand that forming families and bearing and rearing children is a faith-based work. I’m not sure that this principle is evident to many of our young people. Or perhaps they are uncertain of their own faith.

I know that in our marriage, we acted in faith in our decision to marry, and in our decision to have children. We trusted in the Lord’s promises as we moved forward and have been richly blessed already.

This is the doctrine of the family. But how do we build on that foundation? It is too easy to use the standard answers, to say, “follow the Spirit, keep the commandments, love one another, pray, study the scriptures and hold family home evening.” It is much more difficult to do it. And there is more to it than that.

I would like to share some practical ideas on strengthening home, family and marriage.

As parents, we should live and teach with so much clarity that our teachings cut through the noise and interference that the youth are hearing from the world and so that it will pierce their hearts and touch them. We need to walk the talk and avoid sending mixed messages. Our youth will pick up on that very quickly. As parents, our teaching should be in harmony with the gospel, and definitely in harmony with each other.

Julie B. Beck counseled us to “live in your home so that you’re brilliant in the basics, so that you’re intentional about your roles and responsibilities in the family. Think in terms of precision, not perfection.”[6]

In other words, it doesn’t matter so much if our efforts are less than perfect, as long as we are consistent in having family prayers, family home evening, family scripture study, family singing and other activities that build faith. Through that consistency our children and grandchildren will gain a firm foundation. If we treat these events as unimportant, that message will be heard loud and clear. And we should do our best to make it enjoyable, leading “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”[7] not by force or intimidation.

And don’t forget to have fun as a family. That must not be overlooked.

Of course, we all have our agency. And some of our children may choose not to follow us. Lehi dealt with that. Even Heavenly Father lost a third of his children. I would hesitate to call him a failure. But if we remain true and faithful to our covenants, we have a promise, which was stated so beautifully by Elder Orson F. Whitney:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”[8]

This is beautiful doctrine, and the Spirit has testified to me that this is true.

Elder Robert D. Hales told us that “the key to strengthening our families is having the Spirit of the Lord come into our homes. The goal of our families is to be on the strait and narrow path.”[9]

We have been counseled to make our homes a safe place where each family member feels love and a sense of belonging. Our homes should be sanctuaries from the world.

Satan is raging in the world, but we should not allow him to enter into our homes. There should be no place for him there.

President Nelson encouraged Church members to hang certain reminders of the plan of salvation in their home: “I invite the members of the Church to place on the walls of their homes pictures of their family, pictures of their grandparents, pictures as a couple, pictures of their children, and pictures of the temple. These all symbolize God’s eternal plan. It’s all about the family.”[10]

We also need to invest time in our most important relationships: our spouse, children, and grandchildren. I would suggest that the world’s concept of “quality time” is not in keeping with the gospel—it is an excuse. Scheduling an occasional hour is not adequate for eternal relationships. Sufficient time and effort should be given to strengthening our relationships with family members: to teaching the gospel, helping children and grandchildren set goals and lift their sights, to providing encouragement, and to developing common interests.

In my family, my mom had us takes turns doing Sunday dinner dishes with her. It was many years later that I learned that this was her chance to visit with us one on one on a regular basis. And we also learned to do some basic housework. When her grandchildren were old enough, she was patient enough to let them help with baking, and bonds were created.

I recall my mom taking us with her as she did her visiting teaching assignments during the summer. My dad was my home teaching companion throughout my youth, and when he was a Stake Missionary, I frequently accompanied him on visits. My parents taught me to serve others, and to magnify even the challenging church callings.

Heidi spends time talking with our grandchildren who can converse and sings and plays with the grandchildren who aren’t yet conversational. She recently asked our oldest grandson, who is eight, what his favorite thing was to do. He responded, “be a family.” What a mature and gratifying answer!

It is also important to help our children and grandchildren to value themselves for who they are. If they see themselves as children of God, they will be more accepting of others, both in and out of the church. We should help them to understand and respect honorable manhood and womanhood, as well as the God-given expectations connected to each role.

We should ask ourselves, what is the next ordinance? For ourselves, our children, or our grandchildren. It may be baptism, priesthood ordination, or temple ordinances. For some the next ordinance needed might be the sacrament. As family members, we can help other family members plan and prepare as they progress on the pathway to eternal life, as Elder Hales advised us.

And that, perhaps, is the most important role we have as family members, to strive together to stay on the path that leads to eternal life.

The Ward Motto of the Crestline Ward is; “It’s all about a Christ-centered family.” These are good words to live by whether we adopt it as a personal motto or goal, or simply recognize its truth.

Strengthening family, home and marriage in the public arena goes hand in hand with protecting our religious freedoms. The scriptures and the prophets have taught that it is through personal righteousness that we will preserve our religious freedoms. Through our personal righteousness, we will not only strengthen our own families, but also strengthen the family in society. We need to let our lights shine.

It is not necessary for us to be politically active. Our own righteous acts and other service will serve as the leaven in our society and help to preserve the institutions that we value.

I testify that the family is the foundational unit of Heavenly Father’s kingdom. Heavenly Father created the family in order for us to be happy, both now and in the eternities to come. If we are true to the covenants we have made, we will obtain all the blessings that Heavenly Father has promised to us through obedience to his plan. He loves us and wants us to return to him.

I pray that we will be true and faithful in living these important doctrines.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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[1] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; 1 Nephi 8:37.

[2] Kimball, SW; Families Can Be Eternal; October 1980 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/10/families-can-be-eternal?lang=eng

[3] Ibid.

[4] Doctrine & Covenants 2:1-3.

[5] Pearl of Great Price; Abraham 1:2.

[6] Beck, JB; Teaching the Doctrine of the Family; Ensign, March 2011; https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/03/teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family?lang=eng

[7] Doctrine & Covenants 121:41. See also verses following.

[8] In Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110. See also Faust, JE; Dear Are the Sheep that Have Wandered; April 2003 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2003/04/dear-are-the-sheep-that-have-wandered?lang=eng

[9] Hales, RD; Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty; April 1999 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/strengthening-families-our-sacred-duty?lang=eng

[10] LDS Living; http://www.ldsliving.com/President-Nelson-Invites-Latter-day-Saints-to-Hang-5-Things-on-the-Walls-of-Their-Homes/s/88680

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