An Eternal Key


Elder Durrel A. Woolsey

My beloved brethren of the priesthood, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36.) Could we add, “lose his own soul, and his family”?

As I left California, bound for Salt Lake City to receive training and be set apart for a mission in Arizona, I experienced for a moment an alarming feeling. I had lost all of my keys. The keys to the cars, home, business, and Church calling had been left behind. I had the depressing feeling that I no longer had any keys; even my pockets seemed empty.

Then came the exhilarating thought that I still had the most important key of all, a key that I will hold eternally, if I remain worthy. That key, of course, is the patriarchal key with my family.

I became aware of how temporary most other keys are, especially keys that control material things that will one day become victims of moth and rust. Priesthood keys of leadership and other keys of presidency are extremely vital; but for the most part, even they are temporary in nature. Eventually, after faithfully serving, you will then relinquish those keys to someone else.

We will, however, be blessed to continue to hold our patriarchal key. Fathers, you hold the key to accomplish the work stated by several of the prophets as vitally important. President Harold B. Lee said, “The most important work you will ever do will be done within the walls of your own home,” and President David O. McKay cautioned that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

Many in the world are alarmed, and with some justification, at the plight and deteriorating condition of families. The most powerful thrust toward a resolution of this significant problem would be an honorable father, full of integrity and fidelity, giving righteous leadership to his family. That joyful work and calling is to do whatever is necessary to chart a course for you and your family to unitedly return and live with Heavenly Father.

We likely will not be called upon to endure the great physical hardships suffered by so many of our pioneer forefathers. Ours is a much more sinister and demoralizing challenge. Often this challenge will approach cloaked in confusing masks of misunderstood rights and agency or the enticements and allurements of a misguided world. We daily face the “anything for a thrill” crowd or the “What’s in it for me?” society.

The anti-Christ Korihor, in the Book of Mormon, taught a similar type of damaging doctrine when he said, “There could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.” (Alma 30:17.) This rhetoric could blend into much of the accepted doctrine of the world today.

So where is safety? How does a father go about safely guiding his most priceless possession through the reefs and shoals?

Dad, you need to be a hero in your family. They need a hero. They will have strong peer pressure and temptation to adopt the so-called heroes of today who are not worthy of their attention and most certainly not their emulation. The heroes or superstars in the sports and entertainment world, and there are many, frequently become examples of dishonesty, instability, and infidelity. They flagrantly and indifferently flaunt those weaknesses of character and immorality before a doting and accepting world, as Korihor said, “according to the management of the creature.” (Alma 30:17.)

Could not, should not, Father become the hero to his family? A father worthy of attention, worthy of emulation? Most certainly, but how?

First of all, a generous amount of your time is required. Not a superficial moment here and there, not the tired and worn-out phrase, “We’ll talk about that later,” but an honest, generous piece of your day on a continuing basis, even at the sacrifice of things social, things personally entertaining, or even things financially rewarding. All of the money in the world, significant worldly accomplishments which may include the upper rungs of the success ladder, or the personal enjoyment of athletic and sporting activities, will not return you and your family intact to live with Heavenly Father.

President Joseph F. Smith quoted from the Savior, as stated in Mark: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36.) Then President Smith continued, “What would it profit me, though I should go out into the world and win strangers to the fold of God and lose my own children? Oh! God, let me not lose my own. I can not afford to lose mine, whom God has given to me and whom I am responsible for before the Lord, and who are dependent upon me for guidance, for instruction, for proper influence.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975, p. 462.)

The salvation of our families will require all that we have to save all that we have. So you will make the time commitment. Great! Positive, wonderful benefits will begin to flow to you and your family almost immediately.

So what next? I mentioned fidelity. It is absolutely essential that you set an undeviating course of loyalty and faithfulness to your companion, to whom you have previously made these very commitments and promises. The example of your great love and respect for her, the two of you being as one, will establish a singular guiding strength that your children will desire to follow. Your voices and actions blending together in a united front as you teach and lead your little family will be the trumpet with a certain sound of strength and unity leading to safety. Synonyms of fidelity are allegiance and devotion. They will be critical supports to your foundation of fidelity. “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22.)

Father, one of your greatest resources will be the scriptures. You would not consider making a large investment in a rather complicated and technical piece of equipment, then begin its operation, without an involved study of the handbook of instruction. Further, you would likely reference that handbook often. The handbook of instructions for your somewhat complicated, very sizable investment called family is certainly the original handbook of instruction—that being our beloved scriptures. They are complete with instructions and examples. Often, you will find the answer before the question is asked. Daily research is required. It is also vital to maintain open communication lines with the Fountainhead of all wisdom and truth through your daily family and personal prayers.

Finally, what better resource for direction could we have than a living prophet? A great safety-net can envelop you and your family as you follow the Brethren. How blessed you are, Dad, to have living oracles of God to update you with current instruction to guide your family through modern-day challenges. To not hear, or ignore them, to not understand and heed those instructions would be like beginning a trip across the sea in a small boat without a compass.

Well, that’s it, Dad. You must become the family hero, worthy of not only their attention but their emulation. This will require your constant investment of sufficient time, complete emotional and physical fidelity, with unity of purpose between you and your eternal companion. This will require your constant dependency upon the Lord, demonstrated through scripture study and prayer. This will require that you follow the Brethren in every sense of the word—hearing, understanding, and doing. This simple formula will unite and strengthen your beloved family and bring countless blessings from our Father.

May God bless all fathers to righteously obtain and maintain this patriarchal key to the blessing of families throughout the Church. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.