Hank Smith Celebrates Families at 2017 Family Discovery Day
Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
- Learning from our ancestors can help us gain strength for the future.
- Record your memories for future posterity.
“It's almost as if when we learn about the past, we gain strength for the future,” said popular LDS speaker Hank Smith at Family Discovery Day 2017. “Today, I'm going to celebrate families past, present, and future.”
Starting with the present, Brother Smith showed a variety of pictures from his own life. On a huge screen in the auditorium he displayed photos of his wedding and his children. “Family history is not just about the past; it's also about the present,” he said. “Celebrate the present.”
Relating a sealed bag of nacho chips to a person, Brother Smith spoke about how family members might sometimes be rude to each other and hurt each other’s feelings. As he spoke a disparaging word as an example, he crumpled the bag of chips. We have to realize that when we say something harmful to the people we love, they may look the same on the outside, but on the inside they are hurting, he said.
For celebrating the past, Brother Smith shared a story about himself from high school. He was invited to a party one night at the house of some new friends and made his way to the kitchen where there were a bunch of youth. A young man he didn't know very well slid some alcohol down the counter to him, which he caught in his hand. “The first thought that came into my mind was that if my dad caught me, I was going to be grounded forever,” he said.
He said that as he stood there shocked about being at a party for less than five minutes and being offered alcohol, he stared at the alcohol and remembered a family history story he heard three weeks earlier about his great-great-grandfather Hans, from Denmark. Hans was a wealthy man who gave up everything to join the Church. When they arrived in Utah, they had to live in a cave in Ephraim.
Brother Smith said as he stood there staring at the alcohol, worried about the social awkwardness of refusing to drink it, a vision of his ancestor came to mind. “He stood there looking at me with his arms folded and behind him was the cave he lived in,” said Brother Smith. “It was almost as if he was saying to me, ‘I lived in a cave; you can do this.’”
The entire group of teenagers in the kitchen noticed he was silent. When he looked up from the alcohol everyone was staring at him. He wanted to say something profound, call them unto repentance, or inspire them to serve missions. “I like orange juice,” he told them. One of the other boys grabbed the alcohol from his hand and they got him some orange juice. He drank it and left the party.
“I like to think my great-great-grandfather reached his hand through the centuries, grabbed that drink, and pulled it out of my hand,” said Brother Smith. “It’s almost as if when we learn about the past, we gather strength for the future.”
The final part of Brother Smith’s presentation was about celebrating the future. He spoke about his wife’s parents, Rod and Marlene Savage, who have a family tradition to give each new member of the family a complete tour of their house.
When their first child was two days old, Rod did something unusual. “He took this baby on a tour of the house to every room and every faucet,” said Brother Smith. “Do you ever have something like that that becomes a tradition in your house? Something that you just did once and you thought it was funny but you said, ‘We’ve got to do this again’? And then it becomes a family tradition.”
And so it continued as every child was born, spouse was selected, and grandchild was born, said Brother Smith. And then something happened that made the tradition priceless. “Has anyone ever had a phone call that changes their life forever?” he asked. At a birthday dinner, his wife picked up a call from her mother. Her mother told her that she had some tests done and was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer.
Things moved quickly over the next few weeks, and his wife's mother was confined to a wheelchair. Brother Smith and his wife found themselves at her parents’ house one evening to say goodbye for the last time, he said. A hospice nurse was there and indicated that she was close to death and that they should prepare her for bed. As her father wheeled her mother down the hall, he stopped and said to everyone, “Let’s take Mom on a tour.”
Brother Smith said, “Moments like this have to be recorded. They have to be passed down.” Rod wheeled his wife to each room of the house. In the family room he talked about 47 years of family home evening. At the television he mentioned the shows they had watched together. And in the kitchen, Brother Savage talked about his wife being the best cook on the planet.
In the bedroom, he spoke about each one of their children and how she had influenced their lives. He got her ready and laid her in the bed and just knelt by her for the next several hours until she passed away, Brother Smith said.
A few weeks later Brother Smith asked his father-in-law how he was doing. He told him, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But I’m a happy person. If I need to live without her for a while so I can appreciate her more when I get her back, I can do that.”
Brother Smith said, “That story needs to be told. My children need to tell that story to their children. And they need to tell that story to their grandchildren. But it depends on us telling those stories, making sure they’re told, making sure they’re recorded, and making sure they’re passed down in a way that is compelling.”
He then showed a photo of his wife’s parents to a chorus of applause from the audience. “Embrace the past, present, and future,” he said. “Celebrate them all.”