Carole M. Stephens: The Family Is of God
Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, framed her remarks Saturday night using the words of a Primary song sung earlier in the meeting—“The Family Is of God.”
The words of the song, Sister Stephens explained, remind the listener of “pure doctrine.”
“We learn not only that the family is of God but also that we are each part of God’s family,” she said. “The first line of the song teaches: ‘Our Father has a family. It’s me! It’s you, all others too: we are His children.’”
Speaking to the many women, young women, and girls gathered for the general women’s session held in the Conference Center on March 28, Sister Stephens explained that all were spirit daughters of God who existed in the premortal realm, where they learned of their female identity. “We knew that we were each ‘a beloved … daughter of heavenly parents,’” she said.
Although earthly families all look different, membership in the family of God is not contingent upon any kind of status—marital, parental, financial, social, or even the kind posted on social media. “We belong,” Sister Stephens declared.
The second line of the song, Sister Stephens said, is an expansion of the first. “He sent each one of us to earth, through birth, to live and learn here in families.”
She then quoted Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who explained, “We were taught in the premortal world that our purpose in coming here is to be tested, tried, and stretched.”
Such stretching can come in many diverse ways. Some may think, “Sister Stephens, you just don’t understand!”
“And I answer that you may be right,” she said. “I don’t completely understand your challenges. But through my personal tests and trials—the ones that have brought me to my knees—I’ve become well acquainted with the one who does understand—He who was ‘acquainted with grief,’ who experienced all and understands all.”
Daughters of God have the opportunity to unite in empathy and compassion and support other members of the family of God in their struggles. As daughters of God and disciples of Christ, “our sphere of influence isn’t limited to our family members,” Sister Stephens said.
The third line of the song, she said, further explains the purpose of mortality: “God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be.”
“The Savior taught, ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’ (D&C 38:27). … God wants us to be one. He needs us to be one—covenant-keeping daughters united in the diversities of our individual lives who desire to learn all that is needed to be back in His presence, sealed to Him as part of His eternal family,” Sister Stephens said.
The ordinances and covenants made at baptism and in the temple connect the family of God.
The final line of the Primary song returns to where it began, Sister Stephens said. “This is how He shares His love; for the family is of God.”
“The Father’s plan for His children is a plan of love, and it is a plan to unite His children—His family—with Him.”
In conclusion, Sister Stephens declared, “Sisters, we belong; we are loved; we are needed; we have a divine purpose, work, place, and role in the Church and kingdom of God and in His eternal family. Do you know deep in your heart that your Heavenly Father loves you and desires you and those you love to be with Him? Just as ‘Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are perfect … , their hopes for us are perfect’ (“Let Us Think Straight,” BYU Education Week, August 2013). Their plan for us is perfect, and Their promises are sure.”
Photo of Carole M. Stephens by Busath.com.