We are the children of God, our Heavenly Father. We are members of his family. We are his spirit offspring. We were born in the premortal life as spirit beings, sons and daughters of a glorified, perfected, exalted being. This holy being himself lives in the family unit. He has a fullness of glory and power and might and dominion. So extensive and infinite are his powers that he created the universe. He is the upholder and preserver of all things, and he keeps all worlds in their orbits and gives laws to all his creations, whether such creations are animate or inanimate. We are the literal offspring of the most glorious personage of whom it is possible to conceive. He is God Almighty, our Heavenly Father.
As his spirit children we were endowed with agency. We were given laws. We were commanded to walk in paths of truth and light and of virtue and integrity so that we could advance and progress. The ultimate goal held out to us was that if we were obedient in all things, eventually we would become like him. We would live in the eternal family unit as he lives in it, and we would have might, power, glory, and the omnipotent creative ability that he possesses. The name of the kind of life he lives is eternal life.
We could tell the difference between our spirit state and his glorified and exalted state, and he implanted in our hearts the desire to advance and progress in glory and might and in intelligence until we became like him. To enable us to do this, he ordained a plan of salvation. It originated with him. It consists of his laws and his requirements, of every ordinance and every truth to which man must conform to obtain the glorious reward of eternal life. This plan of salvation is now known as the gospel of Jesus Christ; it was named by God after his firstborn spirit Son in the premortal life and his Only Begotten in the flesh in order to magnify the importance of our Lord’s position as the Savior and Redeemer of men.
Part of our Father’s great plan of salvation called for the creation of this earth and for the sending of his spirit children here to gain mortal bodies and to gain experiences that could not be obtained in any other way.
In essence, in principle, the plan that he has revealed, the gospel of his Son that he has given for the guidance and direction of all men, commands us to seek him with all our hearts, to love him, to become acquainted with his character, perfections, and attributes, to obey the laws that he has ordained, and to live in all things as becometh saints.
And so when we start talking about family relationships, we ought to know—and our subsequent course of conduct should be influenced by—this eternal truth: that God is our Father; that we have the potential, the capacity, to become like him; and that he has ordained the laws that will enable us to do just that. President Lorenzo Snow said:
(Improvement Era, vol. 22 [June 1919], p. 661.)
In due course we left our premortal home and came to this life to start our existence in mortal families. Thus we are the children of father Adam, who was the first man; for God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:26.) Every living being is a descendant of Adam. Now we of the Church are also the children of Abraham; we are his seed. We are natural inheritors by blood lineage or by adoption of all the blessings that God gave Abraham—the blessings of glory and immortality and eternal life. We are the children of the prophets. We are a select and favored group known as the house of Israel. We have been gathered in from the ends of the earth so that God can fulfill the covenants made with our fathers and offer to us again, as he offered to them, the fullness of every great, glorious gospel principle. And the summation of these is to have the family unit continue eternally.
All this is by way of background and as a prelude to giving particular consideration to another family, the family of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah said that Christ would see his seed. When Abinadi, the Book of Mormon prophet, interpreted this, he said, in effect, that the seed of Christ consisted of the faithful people who had lived in all ages, who had loved the Lord, who had kept the commandments, who were prophets of God. He said, in effect, that all these were the members of our Lord’s family. (See Mosiah 15:11.)
We are invited in this day and age of the earth to come unto Christ and be adopted into his family. We are to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. (See D&C 18:21–25.) My surname is McConkie and I esteem that to be a wholesome, good, and reputable name. I feel that I have an obligation so to live as to add dignity to it and not detract from it. As with me, so with each of you in the respective mortal families into which you have been born.
But all of us, collectively, are invited into and become members—assuming that we are true and faithful in all things—of a greater family than any of us have been or could be born into in mortality. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He stands supreme. He was like unto God in the premortal life. He was born into this world as the Only Begotten of the Father. He lived a perfect life, a sinless life. He hearkened completely and totally to his Father’s direction. He worked out the atoning sacrifice. He has ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God and has glory and exaltation everlastingly. There is no being like him nor could there be.
We are invited to become members of his family, and if we are members of his family, he becomes our Father, and it is by his name that we are called. If we are called by that name in this life, and if we remember who we are and act accordingly, we have the privilege of continuing as members of that family everlastingly. Christ proclaimed that if we receive the gospel, we have power to become his sons and his daughters. We do not automatically become members of the family merely because we have joined the Church. That is an initial requirement. When we join the Church, we have power to actually become the sons and daughters of God. (See D&C 39:1–6.)
When King Benjamin spoke of this to the people in his day, he told them that through the covenant they had made, which was a covenant in the waters of baptism to keep the commandments, they had become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, they had been spiritually begotten, and their lives had been changed through faith in him; then he issued the invitation that they should take upon them the name of Christ and bear that name, bear it nobly and valiantly before men throughout the entire continuance of their mortal lives. (See Mosiah 5:7–14.)
When we talk of this, we are talking of being born again. This matter of being born and having a family relationship is purely a matter of definition. We were born first as the spirit children of God, our Heavenly Father. We lived with him for a time. Our lives did not commence with this mortal existence. This mortal sphere is simply a change of status for the eternal spirit that had lived before in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father. Birth is a change of status. It is a new way of living.
We are living here in mortality, and if we come to Christ and start living his laws and change our way of existence, we are born again. Paul expresses it by saying that we crucify the old man of sin. (See Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22.) We die as pertaining to the things of this world and we become alive in Christ. We become members of his family.
When Alma the younger had his glorious experience and was born again (without any question he had been baptized in his youth but he had not been born again: he had not exercised the power to become a son of God) he received from the Lord the pronouncement that all mankind, men and women, people of every nation and kindred and tongue, had to be born again if they were to become inheritors of peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Then he was counseled that they had to become new creatures. They had to become a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit; their lives had to be changed. (See Mosiah 27:24–31; Alma 5.) That change is one in which people become alive to the things of righteousness; they die as pertaining to carnality and things that are vulgar, as to things that lead contrary to and away from God, our Heavenly Father.
Thus, we are born again if we actually exercise the power that we have as members of the Church, and in that event we have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ. If we have the name of Christ upon us, we are his representatives, members of his family. When we go forth among men, we are remembering not only our natural inheritance as members of the family of God the Father, but we are also going forth as the spiritual sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ. And upon us rests the obligation to walk as becometh saints, to do the kinds of things that he would have us do under all circumstances and in all situations.
Now, that is one of our great families, and the gate that opens the door to that family relationship is baptism. Baptism puts us on the path leading to membership in Christ’s family here and to an eventual inheritance in the celestial world hereafter. Because the Lord would have us always remember our membership in this family, he has given us an ordinance in which we renew the covenants made in the waters of baptism, and that is the ordinance of the sacrament. We should partake of the sacrament frequently if circumstances permit. When we do so, we agree anew to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and thereby assume all of the consequent obligations that go with membership in that holy family. This makes us sons and daughters of Jesus Christ.
But there is another family relationship that makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. I said he was the Son of God. He is the only being born into the world as the literal offspring of that holy and exalted being who is our Father in heaven. As the Son of God, he became the natural heir of all that his father possessed. He became the heir of God by virtue of his divine sonship. Assuming that he was not cut off and disinherited for rebellion or disobedience, it became his right to inherit, receive, and possess all that the Father had: that is, glory and dominion and exaltation and the fullness of all good things. Christ kept the faith and walked uprightly. He went from grace to grace, from a small degree of intelligence to a higher, until he gained the fullness of the glory of the Father. (See D&C 93:6–17.) In other words, through his mortal probation he worked out his salvation and was finally able to say, after his resurrection, that all power was given him in heaven and on earth. (See Matt. 28:17–18.)
He is the natural Son of God. But there is a system ordained whereby the rest of us can become sons of God. Christ is the prototype of salvation. If we walk in his path and follow him, then we do what he did and eventually become like him. This is the reward for all those who are adopted into the family of God the Father and become his sons. Paul says that Christ is the Son and the Heir, and that we are joint-heirs with him. (See Rom. 8:17.) That is, if we are faithful, we are able to receive, possess, and inherit jointly with him.
This is a very expressive term. It is chosen for particular reasons, to convey the exact and precise thought that is involved. I, for instance, with my wife, own a home, and the deed to that home says that the property was conveyed to Bruce R. McConkie and Amelia S. McConkie, his wife, as joint tenants and not as tenants in common. This is legal language that is chosen in order to convey the concept that each one of us inherits and possesses and owns and has the totality of all the property, that all of it is vested in both of us. If one or the other of us passes away, the other automatically owns the entire property. It is not divisable. We are joint tenants. That is what a joint-heir is; he inherits everything that the other heirs inherit. There is not a division so that one gets this and someone else gets another thing. All of them get the totality of the whole.
We have an order of celestial marriage that opens the door to exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. (See D&C 131:1–4.) Those who enter this order of matrimony and are faithful and true come up and inherit all things. (See D&C 76:50–70.) The terms and conditions of the oath and covenant of the priesthood say that those who magnify their callings receive all that our Father has. (See D&C 84:33–42.) They are joint-heirs; they are possessors of the whole. They have inherited as their prototype before inherited. They have the fullness of glory and honor and dignity and dominion. So the members of the Church, who are the children of Christ, who progress and advance and keep the commandments and are faithful and true, have the power to become his brothers and his sisters, to be joint-heirs with him, to receive, possess, and inherit the fullness of all good things; and that is what the plan of salvation is all about. That is the plan that God, our Heavenly Father, ordained for us.
We find the apostle John saying this: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. …
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn. 3:1, 2.)
That is the whole object and the whole end of existence. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is to enable man to advance and progress and become like God. It is a tremendously interesting thing that every time we start talking about glory, honor, and reward, about salvation, joy, and happiness in this life and all of the good things that the gospel bestows, we are talking about family units. Everything is family centered. Salvation is a family affair. There are literal families; there are spiritual families. When the Lord wants to make a point for us that we will comprehend and understand to the extent that we can gain what is involved, he talks about family units; and automatically, in the very nature of things, we then have the obligation to be worthy of the family relationship that is ours.
We ought to so live that we will be worthy of the association of good faithful parents, of upright and true children, of wives and husbands who themselves are seeking righteousness. This is a pattern for us. As we school ourselves in the mortal family relationships, we thereby acquire the attributes of godliness that, when fully perfected, will enable us to have eternal family units of our own hereafter. We are members of the family of Jesus Christ. We are members of the family of God, our Heavenly Father; that is, we are if we have exercised the power given us and if we are walking uprightly and doing all of the things we are able to do in view of the light, knowledge, and truth that God has restored from heaven to us in this day.