First Presidency Message

Counsel to the Saints


Ezra Taft Benson
From an address given by President Benson in general conference on 7 April 1984.

Counsel to the Saints

My message is to provide counsel on how we as a church and as individuals can carry forward the work of God to all the world.

First, we need to strengthen families.

We must recognize that the family is the cornerstone of civilization and that no nation will rise above the caliber of its homes. The family is the rock foundation of the Church. We therefore call on the head of every household to strengthen the family.

We believe marriage was ordained by God for a wise, eternal purpose. The family is the basis of the righteous life. Divinely prescribed roles of father, mother, and children were given from the very beginning.

God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide, love, teach, and direct.

A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are to be helpmates and are to counsel with their husbands.

There is no inequality between the sexes in God’s plan. It is a matter of division of responsibility.

Children are likewise counseled in holy writ in their duty to parents:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

“Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

“That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:1–3), said the Apostle Paul.

When parents, in companionship, love, and unity, fulfill their heaven-imposed responsibility and children respond with love and obedience, great joy is the result.

Recently a letter came to me from a member of the Church describing some of the difficulties and challenges that a husband and his wife were having in rearing their children.

They were married in the temple, but subsequently drifted into inactivity. They had only recently become active again in Church responsibility. They asked for personal counsel as to what they might do to ensure that their children would remain faithful to the gospel and avoid some of the pitfalls that they had experienced and had seen come to other families.

In other words, they were asking, “How can we spiritually strengthen our family?”

I would invite each of you to ponder that significant question. As a response to this request, I would further invite you to consider the tried and tested formula that successful families have used over the years to attain love, unity, and loyalty to one another and to understand the principles of the gospel.

Successful families have love and respect for each family member. Family members know they are loved and appreciated. Children feel they are loved by their parents. Thus, they are secure and self-assured.

Strong families cultivate an attribute of effective communication. They talk out their problems, make plans together, and cooperate toward common objectives. Family home evening and family councils are practiced and used as effective tools toward this end. Fathers and mothers in strong families stay close to their children. They talk. Some fathers formally interview each child, others do so informally, and others take occasion to regularly spend time alone with each child.

Every family has problems and challenges. But successful families try to work together toward solutions instead of resorting to criticism and contention. They pray for each other, discuss, and give encouragement. Occasionally these families fast together in support of one of the family members.

Successful families do things together: family projects, work, vacations, recreation, and reunions.

Successful parents have found that it is not easy to rear children in an environment polluted with evil. Therefore, they take deliberate steps to provide the best of wholesome influences. Moral principles are taught. Good books are made available and read. Television watching is controlled. Good and uplifting music is provided. But most importantly, the scriptures are read and discussed as a means to help develop spiritual-mindedness.

In successful Latter-day Saint homes, parents teach their children to understand faith in God, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. (See D&C 68:25.)

Family prayer is a consistent practice in these families. Prayer is the means to acknowledge appreciation for blessings and to humbly recognize dependence on Almighty God for strength, sustenance, and support.

This, then, is the tried and proven formula for rearing successful families. I commend the formula to you.

As parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in Zion, it has been the shared hope of my wife and me that all of us will be together in the eternities—that all will be worthy, without a single empty chair.

That is my fervent hope and prayer for each family in the Church.

More than at any time in our history, we have need for greater spirituality. The way to develop greater spirituality is to feast on the words of Christ as revealed in the scriptures.

We have requested priesthood leaders to minimize administrative meetings on the Sabbath so that families may engage in worship and family time. Our hope is that you will use this time to attend your meetings, render Christian service, visit family members, hold family home evenings, and study the scriptures.

We counsel you to accept callings in the Church and to serve faithfully in the positions to which you are called. Serve one another. Magnify your callings. As you do so, you will be the means of blessing others and you will increase in spirituality.

We urge you to be sensitive to the needs of the poor, the sick, and the needy. We have a Christian responsibility to see that the widows and fatherless are assisted. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)

We urge you to keep the commandments of God. By so doing, you will keep yourself free from the bondage of sin.

“Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ … serve him.” (D&C 59:5.)

Confess the hand of God in all things. (See D&C 59:21.)

“Be patient in afflictions.” (D&C 24:8.)

“Be of good cheer.” (D&C 61:36.)

Sustain and support the priesthood in the home and Church. (See D&C 107:22.)

Pay an honest tithe and a generous fast offering. (See D&C 119:4; Mosiah 4:21.)

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (D&C 59:6.)

Teach your children. Bring them up in light and truth. (See D&C 93:40, 42–43.)

“Cease to find fault one with another.” (D&C 88:124.)

“Forgive one another.” (D&C 64:9.)

Be thrifty. Stay out of debt. (See D&C 19:35.)

Do not covet. (See D&C 88:123.)

Be honest in your dealings with others. (See D&C 51:9.)

Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. (See D&C 59:10, 12–13.)

Abstain from the use of liquor, tobacco, and strong and hot drinks. (See D&C 89:5–9.)

“Cease to be unclean”; shun pornography. (D&C 88:124.)

Seek learning out of the best books. (See D&C 88:118.) Avoid literature and movies which portray evil as good and good as evil.

Do not commit adultery “nor do anything like unto it.” (D&C 59:6.) That means petting, fornication, homosexuality, and any other form of immorality.

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” (D&C 121:45.)

“Practise virtue and holiness” continually. (D&C 38:24.)

“Clothe yourselves with the bond of charity.” (D&C 88:125.)

Live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. (See D&C 98:11.)

Be valiant in your testimony of Christ. (See D&C 76:51, 79.)

Honor your covenants. (See D&C 25:13.)

“Endure to the end.” (D&C 14:7.)

In a word, though you live in the world, be not of the world!

The mission of the Church is to save souls by proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.

We urge you to do all within your talent and means to help build the kingdom of God on the earth. This is the work of the Lord.

I testify to you that God lives and that today He communicates to His servants His will. … I testify that this is the church of Jesus Christ—the kingdom of God on this earth.

Latter-day Saints, we commend you! We commend your faithfulness. Never have our opportunities and our blessings been so great. In the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, … and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22.)

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis

You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. 1.

    Strengthen families. The family is the rock foundation of the Church, the basis for the righteous life.

  2. 2.

    Study the scriptures. We all have need for great spirituality, and the way to develop it is to feast on the words of Christ as revealed in the scriptures.

  3. 3.

    Accept callings in the Church and serve faithfully.

  4. 4.

    Be sensitive to the needs of the poor, sick, and needy.

  5. 5.

    Keep the commandments.

Discussion Helps

  1. 1.

    Relate your feelings about the counsel given herein by President Benson. Ask those you visit to share their feelings.

  2. 2.

    Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. 3.

    Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum president?

[photos] Photography by Steve Bunderson