97962_000_004I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me. I want to share my life with them through all eternity. (Children’s Songbook, page 188.)
When I was a young boy, I spent most of my summer on the farm with my Grandma and Grandpa Pace in the little town of Hoytsville, Utah. My grandfather had a great sense of humor, and he was a tease. I loved to be around him.
He loved his family deeply. I remember him taking me into the living room and showing me a picture in the Church News. He and Grandma were standing in front of the Salt Lake Temple with their eleven children and their spouses. They had all gone through a temple session together for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. This had been the happiest day of Grandpa’s life.
Many years later, after I was called as a General Authority, I performed the marriage ceremony for one of my cousins. My mind went back to my grandfather telling me of the happiest day of his life. In my mind’s eye, I pictured him in the temple with all of his children. I decided to write a letter to all my cousins, telling them of this experience and reminding them of Grandma and Grandpa.
We later held a family reunion on what would have been our grandparents’ ninety-second wedding anniversary. The reunion included a special session in the Salt Lake Temple. We didn’t have one hundred percent of the family there, but we had a pretty good percentage. Eighty-six members of our family, including spouses, were at the temple together. It was a very inspirational experience. As I greeted my cousins, I had the feeling that Grandma and Grandpa and other family members from the other side of the veil were also there. We all felt very close. After the session, we met on the steps at the east door of the temple and had our picture taken together. This memento will be treasured by us and our children for years to come.
I am grateful for these moments of joy the gospel brings to families, but I am equally grateful for the comfort it offers in times of deepest sorrow.
I served as a mission president in Australia, and when we came home for general conference, we met Addison, a three-month-old grandson, for the first time. He died of crib death shortly afterward, and six weeks later my father passed away. It’s in times like these when your testimony really makes a difference. Having wept at the passing of loved ones, and rejoiced in the births of grandchildren, I have come to realize that from the eternal perspective, birth and death are equally worthwhile events in our eternal progression.
As a child, I heard my grandfather talk about how much his family meant to him. Now that I am a father and a grandfather, I know what he is talking about firsthand. My family is where my heart is.
Children, you have responsibilities in the home to support one another. If all children could catch the vision of how much nurturing you can do in your own families, you could change the world. Never underestimate the good influence you can be on your parents, brothers and sisters, a cousin, an uncle, an aunt, a grandma, or a grandpa. Grandchildren can do a lot to nurture grandparents and bring great joy into their lives. That is especially true if the grandparent is a widow or widower. My mother is alone now, and as my children drop in and bring their babies, it lets her both give and receive love.
Throughout her life, our youngest daughter, Joéll, has been a good influence on our family. She was the one who reminded us to have family prayer. She was the one who tried to get us excited about family home evening. She devised treasure hunts; she fixed treats; she would do anything to try to get the family excited about having family home evening. Occasionally her older brothers resisted, but even as they were resisting, there was a respect for what she was trying to do.
This kind of family closeness can continue even after you grow up and leave home. While my wife and I were on our mission, our married children did a lot to support us. They stuck together and held monthly family home evenings. They published a monthly family letter that we all sent back and forth. None of them ever complained about our absence, and it was evident that their testimonies brought them closer together as siblings and to us.
Not even death should separate loving family members for long. The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation to the world concerning families. Part of it states: “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to [continue] beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”