“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared [loved] the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. …” (Mal. 3:16–17.)
How beautiful to contemplate the idea that God would desire all his choice sons and daughters, those who covenant to serve him, to have their names and their faithful works recorded in a book of remembrance so that he might look upon it and judge those names written therein to be his faithful sons and daughters!
No parent worthy of the title “parent” ever lies down at night without thinking of his children —sons and daughters with whom he has been blessed—and praying that God will bless those children and keep them in the faith of their father and mother. Ancient parents were no different. They too desired that their offspring would heed the words of the prophets and the wise men God had raised up unto them. One of the most priceless gems of prophetic wisdom was given by Lehi in the Book of Mormon. As he was about to die, he reached out to his children in love to counsel and guide them in their future lives. This patriarch said to one of his sons:
“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
“But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way that ye should go ye will not depart from it.” (2 Ne. 4:4–5.)
A child cannot be permitted to grow as a wild flower; he must be trained and taught the ways of life and the ways of the Lord. The one great underlying purpose of a book of remembrance is to train up a child in the ways of righteousness, so that his mind will be filled with faith and rich experiences of his parents and grandparents and an understanding of the ways of the Lord.
Another fascinating story in the Book of Mormon is that of King Benjamin, who called his people together to hear the word of the Lord. So vast was the assemblage on that occasion that there was not sufficient room around the temple for the people to hear the message. Every family, according to the record, pitched its tent with the doorway facing the temple, and the king built a tower so that he could be seen and heard by the citizens. It was even found necessary for the words of the king to be written so that every family would know what he was imparting to the throng.
King Benjamin wanted his people to know the Lord, that thereby they might gain salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God. They listened to him with deep intent, and upon receiving the spirit they fell prostrate and witnessed that they did accept and believe in Jesus Christ. So great was the outpouring of the spirit that the people experienced a mighty change in their hearts, and they had no more disposition to do evil.
However, there was a grievous oversight by the people who were assembled that day. Although the event was recorded by the prophet-historian of the time, the people did not make a book of remembrance so that their children could be taught in the language of the fathers the inspiration of that great experience. Mosiah records that after his father, King Benjamin, had passed away and the children had matured and were ready to become adults themselves:
“… many of the rising generation … could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
“They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
“And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
“And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.” (Mosiah 26:1–4.)
Do any of us have children like this, those whose hearts may be hard toward the truth, who will not join the Church in righteousness, who are separate as to their faith and works, willing to remain in their carnal and sinful state? Could it be possible that some of us have experienced marvelous spiritual experiences but have not written them for our children, and therefore they will not believe of our conversion to the Church or the great happenings in our lives that produced our faith in God? In Second Nephi we read:
“Wherefore, for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand.” (2 Ne. 25:21.)
You see from this statement that the Book of Mormon writings are in reality a book of remembrance. Thus, each of us might call his book of remembrance scripture, for actually it is scripture to his family if it is written in the way the Lord directed. Nephi continues:
“… and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; and we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know. …” (2 Ne. 25:22–23, 26.)
There, in a concise phrase, is the purpose of the book of remembrance: “… that our children may know.” With this book in our homes we are thus aided in erecting a concrete fortress against the power of the adversary, that he may not destroy our family associations and faith.
The Lord has indicated by revelation that we can be saved singly and separately in the resurrection and be as servants; but whenever the word of the Lord indicates exaltation, it is mentioned in connection with the family unit. The first purpose of the book of remembrance, then, is to show the eternal promises that have been bestowed upon members of the immediate family as well as upon those who are classified as ancestors.
In the priesthood genealogy program we have been told:
“The family books of remembrance in Latter-day Saint homes today should rate in importance second only to the standard works. These family records are supplements to the scriptures, aiding in teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the posterity of faithful members of the Church. A knowledge of the written testimonies and spiritual experiences of family members and of the proved genealogies of the fathers serves to bind the hearts of the children to their fathers and helps them to understand the doctrines that pertain to the exaltation of the family. …
“Every faithful family should be diligently compiling a book of remembrance. In it should be found the story of the family, especially the story of its spiritual life, written by inspiration. Also it should contain a genealogy of the family so that the children may have an opportunity to acquire knowledge of their fathers.” (Improvement Era, April 1966, pp. 294–95.)
What should our book of remembrance contain in order that our family can be shown some of these items just mentioned? First, it should have a pedigree record of all our families as far back as we can find the records. This pedigree record, an index to the family, shows not only who our family members are, but it also gives an outline of where one must focus attention in research.
The next part of a book of remembrance should be completed family group forms, with the names of the husbands and wives as they appear on the pedigree chart. In order for families to know all their relations, they must see them as they appear in families. Thus, the pedigree shows lineage, while the family record shows family progenitors.
Next, there should appear a personal record sheet for each individual—husband, wife, and children. Every faith-promoting experience should be recorded in our personal records. The children should have them to ponder and reflect the blessings and goodness of God to them and their parents. We have the obligation to teach these things to our families with such power that their hearts are changed and they are converted.
In preparing this personal story, we should write about the happenings that have brought the family closer together in family ties, and record the times of blessings and trials along with the times when the blessings of the Lord were apparent in accomplishing good.
We keep books of remembrance also for our children—not scrapbooks filled with items that come into the lives of almost everyone, but incidents that characterize each of them as individuals. It is almost impossible for me to picture in my mind that the book of remembrance referred to by Enoch was a scrapbook. Pictures could not have fallen from this book, faded roses had not been placed between the edges, nor could bits and pieces of gadgetry have fallen from the book. This was a book from which, as he read, he learned of his fathers, and he gained faith as he understood the hand of God dealing with his fathers.
A book of remembrance that is properly assembled can show us what research work has been done on our family names and guide future work so that temple ordinances can be performed for our ancestors. In the program of the Church today, when we can submit individual names to the temple, the need for an organized book of remembrance is greater than ever. As the names are gathered and the ordinances performed, family group records must be organized in a systematic way so that we can be sure the work of all members of each family is done.
A most important reason for having a book of remembrance is to leave for posterity a record of faith to which they can cling with some surety, knowing that their people experienced the same kinds of happiness and joy as did they, the same troubles and heartaches, the same mistakes of judgment; and they can find that God forgives and blesses all his children who will try to keep the commandments.
Thus, from our books of remembrance we ought to be able to establish family goals. The book of remembrance is only a tool, true; but unless we have tools, how can we build?
A book of remembrance for each member in the family does not need to be costly. There are priesthood leaders in every ward of the Church who will gladly help in obtaining the materials for such a book. High priests group leaders have received this assignment, and they and their quorum members will do all in their power to see that Church members receive the help needed to comply with the counsel of the Lord.
The book of remembrance does assist us in creating happy, harmonious family life. I witness to you that I know this work is true.