The Chain of the Generations
My message originates in an experience Susan and I had in September of 1999. President Gordon B. Hinckley came to Ricks College, now BYU–Idaho, to dedicate the recently completed Spencer W. Kimball Building. Susan and I were honored to host President and Sister Hinckley during a remarkably spiritual and memorable day.
While he was on the campus, President Hinckley spoke in a devotional to the students, staff, and faculty. I was seated on the stand just a few feet from the President of the Lord’s restored Church as he delivered his message. Even today, in this very moment as I look into your faces and speak to you, I have a vivid memory of President Hinckley standing at the pulpit in the Hart Auditorium. I remember the principles he taught, his tone of voice and facial expressions, and the things I learned by the power of the Holy Ghost as I listened to him speak.
I invite you to now participate in a portion of that devotional.
“Last Saturday and Sunday we were in Columbus, Ohio, dedicating a new and beautiful temple. The temple and the nearby ward chapel were filled for all of the six sessions. The Spirit of the Lord was present, and it was a great and significant occasion to dedicate the second temple in the history of the Church in the great state of Ohio.
“With me were my wife and my daughter, who was there to assist her mother. To our delight, a granddaughter and two of her children, our great-grandchildren, drove in from St. Louis, where they live. …
“As I sat in the temple in Columbus, Ohio, the other day, looking at my great-grandchildren, a peculiar thing happened to me. I suddenly realized that I stood midway with three generations with which I am familiar behind me and three generations ahead of me. My heart literally turned to my fathers. My heart also turned to my posterity. I envisioned a chain of the generations; that chain goes back a very long way into the distant past of which we know so very little. It now reaches for three generations beyond me. I pictured that chain in my mind’s eye, to date unbroken and shining and strong. …
“Now I thought, as I sat in the temple, that I am a link, joining all of the generations of the past and all of the generations of the future. All that I have of mind and body, of tissue and limb and joint and brain, have come as an inheritance from those who were before me. And all that my posterity have passed through me to them. I cannot afford to break that chain. My posterity cannot afford to break that chain. …
“I wish I had the eloquence of language to convey to you young people here today the feeling I had in the temple, the great overwhelming desire that neither I, nor my posterity, should ever break the chain of the generations of our family.
“To you I say with all of the energy of which I am capable, do not become a weak link in your chain of generations. You come to this world with a marvelous inheritance. You come of great men and women, of men of bravery and courage, of women of accomplishment and of tremendous faith. Never let them down. Never do anything which would weaken the chain of which you are a fundamental part.”1
The imagery of a chain of the generations was clear in my mind. The warning to not become a weak link in the chain of the generations was powerful in my heart. The admonition to never do anything which would weaken the chain of the generations penetrated my soul. For Susan and me, the simple and powerful lessons we learned on that September afternoon have influenced for good our marriage, our family, and every aspect of our lives.
The Call Family
As a young girl growing up in her hometown of Afton, Wyoming, Susan knew and admired a family in her ward that is a marvelous example of the chain of the generations.
Sister Susan K. Bednar’s remarks
Living in the ward where I grew up was an incredible family who had 14 children. The mother and father, Bessie and Evan Call, had married in the temple and remained true and faithful to their covenants. They taught their children the doctrine of the restored gospel and were blessed to raise a righteous family.
Several years ago, I met a beautiful young woman at a sacrament meeting I was attending. As she introduced herself to me, she mentioned that I knew her mother. Her mother was a daughter of Brother and Sister Call and a treasured friend from my youth. This young woman I met in the sacrament meeting was the Calls’ granddaughter. After inquiring, I discovered she was number 44 of 96 grandchildren, and her new baby was the 230th great-grandchild of Bessie and Evan Call. These numbers stunned me. What a huge posterity!
I have thought many times since then: What if Brother and Sister Call had not married in the temple or kept their covenants? What if they had not remained true to the “tremendous faith” of prior generations? What if they had not taught their children the gospel by example and precept? What if they had been a weak link in the chain of their generations? How many people would this have affected? The answer is clear. The decisions made by this couple already have affected more than 300 family members—and the number continues to grow as more great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are welcomed into this family.
Contrast this to a different experience I had with a dear nonmember friend whom I had known for a long time. Imagine my shock when she casually mentioned one day that she had a Mormon grandmother. I was taken back because she knew nothing about and had never been interested in knowing the doctrine and principles of the gospel. Though I do not know the answer, I have often wondered, “Where did the break occur in the chain of her generations?” The certain conclusion is that my friend had never enjoyed the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ in her life because of decisions made by those who preceded her.
As a link in the chain of your generations, you should recognize that the decisions you make now and in the future are not just about you. Your decisions affect both those who have gone before and those who come after you. The example and influence of your obedience to gospel principles, the power of your personal righteousness, and the consequences of the decisions you make for good or bad will extend across the generations. Please be a strong link in the chain of your generations.
I have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the eternal destiny of God’s children.
I testify that because of His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ redeems us from our sins and poor choices and also gives us strength beyond our own to stay true to the gospel and the covenants we make, especially when we find life’s experiences to be difficult.
I know the Holy Ghost brings spiritual impressions to our mind and heart and will assist us in discovering and implementing ways to be a faithful link in the chain of our generations. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
End of Sister Susan K. Bednar’s remarks
A Welding Link
I hope to now build upon President Hinckley’s teachings about our “chain of the generations.” He clearly and emphatically described what we should not do, which is become a weak link in the chain of the generations. I want to focus upon what we should do, which is become a welding link in the chain of the generations.
In Doctrine and Covenants 128:18, we learn “that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time.”2
I invite you to consider two basic questions that arise out of this scripture.
First question: What is the welding link? President Joseph F. Smith taught, “There has got to be a welding together and a joining together of parents and children and children and parents until the whole chain of God’s family shall be welded together into one chain, and they shall all become the family of God and His Christ.”3
The restoration of priesthood authority and keys in this final dispensation makes it possible for each of us to receive, remember, and honor the ordinances of both individual salvation and family exaltation. Elijah indeed has come as promised to confer the priesthood keys and sealing authority that turn hearts and forge welding links across the generations. Again on the earth in these latter days are authorized servants who can deliver the sacred blessings given by the Savior, “that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens.”4
Thus, “the vicarious ordinances we perform in temples, beginning with baptism, make possible an eternal welding link between generations that fulfills the purpose of the earth’s creation.”5
Second question: How does the welding link safeguard the earth from being smitten with a curse? President Joseph Fielding Smith declared, “It is not the question of baptism for the dead alone, but also the sealing of parents and children to parents, so that there should be a ‘whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys and powers and glories,’ from the beginning down to the end of time. If [the] sealing power [restored by Elijah] were not on the earth, then confusion would reign and disorder would take [the] place of order in that day when the Lord shall come, and, of course, this could not be, for all things are governed and controlled by perfect law in the kingdom of God.”6
Why would the earth be cursed? “Simply because if there is not a welding link between the fathers and the children—which is the work for the dead—then we [would] all stand rejected; the whole work of God [would] fail and be utterly wasted. … The restoration of this [sealing] authority is the leaven [or righteous influence] that saves the earth from being utterly wasted at the coming of Jesus Christ.”7
These foundational gospel truths help us understand why “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”8
Some of you have experienced great sorrow in abusive or dysfunctional family relationships. And consequently, you may have little or no desire to be linked to the people who inflicted such heartache and suffering.
Please listen: eternal family links are only welded together through priesthood authority and personal righteousness. Whatever bad things may have occurred in your family, I testify and promise that the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of the healing, renewing, and restoring that you need.
Weeping may have endured during the night of your adversity, but joy can come in the morning of your new life made possible by our Redeemer and Savior.9
During discussions of important matters in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Boyd K. Packer often would ask, “Therefore, what?” I understood his question to mean, “So, what spiritually important difference will this idea, proposal, or course of action make in the lives of Church members? Will it really bless those whom we serve?” In essence, he was inviting us to consider the value and ongoing implications of the subject about which we were counseling. I have found the question “therefore, what?” to be most helpful in focusing my thinking about an issue and in identifying the things that matter most.
So, you may be asking, “Brother Bednar, what is the ‘therefore, what?’ of your message to us?” I believe the answer to that question can be found in three questions some of you may be asking yourselves right now.
Participating in this devotional are many young women and men who are first-generation members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You have listened to and received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, been baptized and confirmed by proper priesthood authority, and presently are pressing forward with firm faith in Christ. Whether you are a recent or a long-time convert, you are the lifeblood of the Church and the salvation of your present and future families. You are the first link in the chain of your generations.
But you may be asking yourself, “As the only member of the Church in my family and because I face strong opposition from my parents, siblings, and other family members, how can I become a strong welding link?”
As you read and listen to stories about the early pioneers of this dispensation who suffered persecution, endured physical hardship, and walked across the plains to settle in the Salt Lake Valley, you may wonder if you could have done what they did. But many of you are doing what they did! The precise nature and types of challenges you face today may be different from those pioneers, but the opposition to restored truth is the same today and grows ever more intense.
In April of 1986, the chief of a tribe in central Ghana passed away. Assisting in the preparations for the funeral was the chief’s half-brother, Fred Antwi, who one year earlier had been baptized and confirmed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unknown to Fred, plans were being made by the chief’s younger sister, the queen mother, for him to become the new tribal chief.
On the evening before the burial, a family member talked with Fred confidentially and asked him, “Do you know what plans the family has for you?” Fred responded, “No, not until I’m told.” The family member then said, “You are going to be the new chief.” Fred was surprised and said emphatically, “No! My religion will not permit me to do this.”
To serve as a chief is an honor. The chief is the overall boss in his villages, and when he speaks, the people will do as they are directed. A chief receives financial support, and whatever he feels he needs is provided to him. Fred was serving as a branch president at the time he learned about the possibility of becoming the chief. And he simply was unwilling to participate in tribal rituals that were contrary to the principles of the Savior’s gospel.
I now cite Fred’s own response to his sister’s startling announcement. “That same evening, I took my car and drove to visit one of our tribal elders in a nearby village. I wanted to talk with him about the news that had been shared with me. He explained, ‘I am aware of the plans, and I can do nothing to help you avoid becoming the chief.’”
Fred then said, “You know I am a Christian, and my religion will not permit me to be a chief because there are many things that a chief must do that I will not do.” The tribal elder replied, “Well then, go back to your leaders and tell them that you are a Christian and cannot be the chief.” Fred responded, “I went back to inform the leaders, but they ignored my message.”
Fred continued, “My half-brother [the former chief] was to be buried at midnight, so I was driving in my car behind all of the other family members in their own cars. Upon reaching a junction in the road on our way to the burial, instead of turning left with the others, I turned right onto a road leading to Cape Coast and sped off.”
For the next six months, Fred had no contact with the extended family. He later learned that had he gone to the burial, he would have been named as the next chief, putting him in a very difficult situation. He eventually learned that his nephew, a son of the queen mother, was named the new chief.
As Fred made that right turn and headed to Cape Coast, he was strengthening the first link in the chain of his generations. Firm in his testimony of the doctrine and principles of the restored gospel, Fred’s course in life changed in miraculous ways. He and Sister Antwi were the first full-time missionaries from West Africa assigned to serve in the Ghana Temple. Presently, Fred and his wife serve respectively as a counselor in the presidency of the Accra Ghana Temple and as an assistant matron.
As a new convert to the Savior’s restored Church, Fred was blessed and strengthened to overcome powerful opposition from his family, friends, and associates. And Brother and Sister Antwi diligently have taught their children the gospel of Jesus Christ and established patterns of righteousness in their family that are reaching across the generations. Just as it began with Fred and his wife, so too it begins with you!
To you who are first-generation members of the Church: it begins with you! You are the pioneers for both your progenitors and your posterity. Deceased family members who precede you in the chain of your generations are praying for your help, and those who will come after you are counting on your faithfulness. You indeed have the power to become strong welding links. Remember, it begins with you. And with the Lord’s help, you can do it.
Some of you may be asking yourselves, “How can I hope to create an eternal family having never been a member of a strong Latter-day Saint home?” A few observations from my own experience may be of help to you.
My personal “chains of the generations” are quite different on my maternal and paternal ancestral lines. In my mother’s chain, I am a fifth-generation member of the Church. Her progenitors joined the Church in England and Switzerland in the earliest days of the Restoration. Thus, on my mom’s line I am one link in a long chain of faithful generations.
In my father’s chain, I am a first-generation member of the Church. Because my dad did not join the Church until later in his life, my brother and I were the first Bednars to receive the priesthood. I was the first in our family to serve as a full-time missionary. Thus, like so many of you, I am the first gospel link in the chain of the Bednar generations.
My father was a good, devoted, and hard-working man. I love him and learned great lessons working with him that have helped me to become the person I am today. My mother taught me to pray and cherish the scriptures. I love her and appreciate the flame of faith she kindled in me. Interestingly, however, I do not remember ever praying, studying the scriptures, or having home evening together as a family. I prayed and read the Book of Mormon with my mom, but we never did these things together as father, mother, and children.
With the help of the Lord, you can create an eternal family, even if you did not come from the kind of Latter-day Saint home that sometimes is featured on the covers of the Liahona or Ensign magazines. Please always remember: it begins with you!
The very fact that I had not experienced righteous family patterns in my boyhood home created in me a strong desire to work diligently with Susan to make sure such patterns were always a part of the home we created together. As we counseled with one another and pleaded for help in our prayers, we were inspired and blessed to help our children learn the principles of the Savior’s restored gospel. We certainly were not perfect parents, but we received the spiritual gifts we needed and found “help … beyond [our] own.”10
You and I are not trapped in our past experiences. We are not wholly and totally victims of our present circumstances or captives of our environment. The Holy Ghost will teach us all things that we should do, including patterns of family righteousness in which we have not previously participated. It begins with you! And with the Lord’s help, you can do it.
Some of you have had your hearts broken by family members or respected leaders who have not honored sacred marriage covenants. You may ask yourself, “If my parents or other couples I have known were sealed in the temple and their marriages did not succeed, what hope can I have that my marriage will last forever?”
To you who have experienced the heartache of a divorce in your family or felt the agony of violated trust, please remember it begins again with you! One link in the chain of your generations may have been broken, but the other righteous links and what remains of the chain are nonetheless eternally important. You can add strength to your chain and perhaps even help to restore the broken links. That work will be accomplished one by one.
We are sons and daughters of God. According to the Father’s eternal plan of happiness, we are endowed with the gift of moral agency and are agents with the capacity to act. We are not merely objects to be acted upon. We are agents unto ourselves and should be anxiously engaged in bringing to pass much righteousness.11
A fulfilling and happy marriage is not found; rather, it is created by a covenant-keeping man and woman. I fear some of you may be engaging in an endless search for something that does not exist. There is no perfect potential spouse who can safeguard you from emotional pain and spiritual anguish. But in the strength of the Lord, a faithful man and woman acting as agents can create the fulfilling marriage and the eternal family they hope and yearn to have.
Selflessly serving in a marriage relationship requires patience and persistence in a world that relentlessly encourages self-centeredness and selfishness. But it begins with you as you act and press forward with faith in the Savior, continually seek for heavenly help, and righteously exercise your moral agency. You can do it with the Lord’s help.
Promises, Blessing, and Testimony
My beloved brothers and sisters, I implore you with all the energy of my soul to become a welding link in the chain of your generations.
Becoming a welding link begins with you by doing the simple things Brother and Sister Call did to honor sacred covenants and teach their children to live and love the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Becoming a welding link begins with you by having the courage and faith in the Savior to turn right, just like Brother Antwi.
Becoming a welding link begins with you by trusting the Holy Ghost to teach you all things and illuminate your pathway, even when you do not know precisely beforehand where you should go and what you should do.
Becoming a welding link begins with you by diligently and valiantly chasing darkness from among you12 and standing strong against the seductive evils of the latter days.
I invoke upon you an apostolic blessing, even that by the power of the Holy Ghost you may understand more fully the importance of your place in the chain of the generations. I know you will be blessed and strengthened as you strive to become a strong welding link. And I promise that with the help of the Lord you can do it!
I joyfully witness that Jesus Christ is the Living Son of the Living God. I know that He lives, that He is risen, and that He knows us and loves us as individuals. I testify priesthood authority and keys that bind on earth and in heaven have been restored to the earth in these latter days. And I know that as we follow the Father’s eternal plan, we are happy in this life, and our families can be together forever. I so testify and witness in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 6/17. Translation approval: 6/17. Translation of “A Welding Link.” Language. PD60004410 xxx
1. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Chains” (Ricks College devotional, Sep. 7, 1999), video.byui.edu; see also “Ricks College Devotional, September 7, 1999,” Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1: 1995–1999 , 471–77.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 128:18; emphasis added.
3. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (2011), 411.
5. D. Todd Christofferson, “The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 11.
6. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (2013), 219.
7. Teachings: Joseph Fielding Smith, 219.
8. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129.
9. See Psalm 30:5.
10. “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.
11. See Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–28.
12. See Doctrine and Covenants 50:23–25.