This training meeting is of consummate importance. We have heard from the President of the Church and six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, each giving pertinent instruction. Now, in conclusion, something to carry with you.
These handbooks, prepared with much time and energy by so many, are not to be read as a lesson or a book. They are reference books to be examined carefully to begin with and thereafter to be visited as needed.
There is a prevailing message in the beginning with these introductory headings: “God the Father’s Plan for His Eternal Family” (Handbook 2, 1.1).
The next heading reads, “The Premortal Family of God” (Handbook 2, 1.1.1). It then describes the role of families and the role of the Church in God’s plan for His children.
There are many headings in the handbook. Under these headings, and throughout chapters 1 and 2 of book 2, important doctrine is emphasized. In addition, when viewed as a whole, the handbooks now provide for simplification and flexibility. Let me underline that: for simplification and flexibility.
As the Church has grown in size, it always seems to grow in complexity. There are so many programs and procedures that need to pull together in harmony. We all wish for patterns of administration that mirror the simplicity of the gospel.
Many years ago, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., speaking for the First Presidency, made an inspired statement warning that too much regimentation in the Church would have the effect of nullifying revelation: “The work of the Church, in all fields, is standing in grave danger of being regimented down to the minutest detail. The result of that will be that not only will all initiative be crushed out but that all opportunity for the working of the spirit will be eliminated. The Church has not been built on that principle” (“Memorandum of Suggestions,” Mar. 29, 1940, 4).
And now, this simple scripture: “But notwithstanding those things which are written, it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit” (D&C 46:2).
I repeat: “But notwithstanding those things which are written, it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit.”
If we understand that, we will not be led astray in our administration.
The Lord said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17; see also Joel 2:28).
It is a spiritual work that we are about, and a spiritual work must be guided by the Spirit.
As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:13–14).
In our day and age there is always the danger of establishing the Church without establishing the gospel. It is not enough. We need to have the Church in the lives of the members and the gospel established in the hearts of the members.
In its first few pages, Handbook 2 describes the role of the Church leaders and teachers, including this quote: “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders and teachers strive to help others become true followers of Jesus Christ” and “to assist individuals and families in this effort” (1.2.2).
If we are not careful, our members are kept so busy concerning themselves with programs and procedures and buildings and budgets that the spiritual testimony is not firmly planted.
Members should be taught with the power and authority of the priesthood. They should know how significant the ordinances are and understand why it is necessary to be worthy to qualify for each ordination, each blessing.
I repeat: The handbooks are reference books much like a dictionary is a book of reference. The contents are so structured that you will be safe by following them and be able to raise worthy families in this very, very troubled time.
In order to live by the Spirit and teach by the Spirit, we can do much better than we are doing.
The organizations of the Church are to sustain and strengthen families. Too often families are regarded as instruments to staff the organizations and complete all of the activities listed as possibilities. Priesthood officers must prayerfully consider what not to do and strive to reduce substantially the requirements upon the families. Their time and money should be spent doing things that would be better done in the family, as a family.
Once again: “Notwithstanding those things which are written”—meaning, regardless of what is in print, including the handbooks—“it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit” (D&C 46:2).
In conclusion, we face a world now that is terrifying in its influence upon the Saints and their families. The adversary rejoices. We must not be discouraged.
As the scripture says, “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and courage, sisters]; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22).
I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you as you move to have the families in the Church strengthened and, by that, strengthen the whole Church, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.