I humbly ask an interest in your faith and prayers as I occupy this historic pulpit.
A few days ago a heartbroken young man came into my office. It was evident from his appearance and troubled look that he was seeking help. He had been a student at the Brigham Young University, married for two years, and now his wife was requesting a divorce. They had a young son.
Filled with remorse, he told me how he had been unsuccessful in holding numerous jobs, had tampered with drugs, had taken a so-called treatment at a commune-type ranch, and had not assumed his responsibility of providing for his wife and infant son.
As I visited with him, I found he had never worked at a paying job or assumed any responsibility prior to his college and marriage. His parents had separated. This young man was the product of a home where the parents ignored the teachings of the Church.
I know of another young man who recently returned from Vietnam. He told of the close bond of love in his family. He said, “My buddies tried to persuade me to go into Saigon and live it up. This went on day after day, but I kept thinking of my family and their influence and the memories of our family home evenings and of my patriarchal blessing. It seemed to give me the courage I needed to resist them.”
He then said, “I got out my blessing and read it and reread it. It promised me a temple marriage if I was worthy. After a while, my buddies were impressed with my conviction. They started to respect me and then wanted to know more.”
The Savior warned mankind of what could happen to our homes if we failed to heed his counsel. He said:
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24–27.)
Couldn’t you imagine that if a family purposely built their house on sand, their neighbors would come running to their aid, would probably warn them and try to persuade them not to make such a critical error? But we are actually witnessing this tragic mistake taking place. Some houses are being built on sand.
We all know of families that seem to be unified with love for one another, respect for the parents, active in church assignments; but as the children grow older, the roof seems to start leaking, the family grows apart, their beliefs now seem to differ. The rains of other influences are beating and beating hard on their homes.
“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked,” said King Benjamin; “neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God … and serve the devil. … But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.)
Remember, this scripture says to teach our children. How can we teach them if we don’t get together as a family (and not just as a place to exchange the car keys)?
All over the world Monday evening has been set aside by the First Presidency as family night. A night of participation, involvement, and wholesome fun. The importance of the family unit cannot be overemphasized. Every home in the Church has been instructed to build a solid foundation for sound citizenship and active church participation.
Some of my warmest memories are of my childhood home. My parents were concerned with the activities of each child. They planned fun evenings at home. We would watch the honey candy boil, then pour it out so it could cool, and then we would all stand around and pull it into strings so we could cut it and enjoy it. This was great fun!
I remember our family around the piano singing and trying to learn harmony. It was at these home nights that I had my first experiences with the children’s stories of the Bible.
The activities and teaching at family home evening can be the vehicle for the building of strong faith and character.
You are aware, as I am, of the comments of juvenile court judges, law enforcement officers, social workers, and educators who seem to unanimously indicate that there is only one sure solution to our present moral challenge. They all point to the home, not more laws. They say, “If only the father would take command! If only father and mother unitedly would guide their children with love and affection!”
The evidence is overwhelming and the need so critical for a strong bond of respect and admiration in our homes. The trend is growing more acute daily. Latter-day Saint parents must analyze the foundation on which their homes are being built, for the rains of evil are descending. Parents must prayerfully prepare for their particular family needs.
Banks hold in trust valuable worldly assets of individuals. They are entrusted with things of value that belong to someone else. How well equipped are we as parents to be the trust officers of the most precious of God’s possessions—innocent young spirits? They are in your charge during eighteen or twenty of these critical years. This is your opportunity and responsibility to help them gain a testimony and prepare for celestial life.
But chances are it will not happen accidentally. Dad and Mom are the trust officers, the planning officers, and the careful organizers of a family master plan. They establish family goals and determine the best methods of achieving these family objectives.
To hold regular and effective family home evenings takes desire and some hard decision-making on the part of parents. Our homes are all different, with different challenges, different personalities; but parents must have the determination and the will to make some personal sacrifices so as to really make it work.
Henry Ward Beecher wrote: “We are not born as the partridge in the wood, or the ostrich of the desert, to be scattered everywhere; but we are grouped together, and brooded by love and reared day by day in that first of churches, the family.”
We are all aware that our youth are being pressured from all sides with bizarre sensationalism that attempts to present a new morality—even a non-family concept—that is in complete opposition to the true teachings of the gospel. The words to some of the rock music, some of the films, and the pictures in some of the magazines indicate with a resounding ring that the rains are pouring, not just on your neighbor’s family, but also upon yours.
Now, if some of you are finding resistance in getting your families together each week and are tempted to give up, please find strength in these words of Elder Marion G. Romney: “It is not enough to do our best. Unless we do all we can, we do less than we ought. We must succeed in doing what is necessary. Unless we get the job done, it is not enough.”
A few days ago we witnessed a little family, with the grandmothers and grandfathers and some of the uncles all united to participate, as a loving father conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on his oldest son. This was a special and sacred occasion and an opportunity to teach and strengthen this little family’s foundation.
Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “We regard children literally as gifts from God, committed to our parental care, for whose support, protection, and training in righteousness we shall be held to a strict accounting.” (The Marriage Institution [pamphlet, Church Historian’s Department], pp. 4–5.)
With our own God-given desire and intelligence, we will find solutions to today’s pressing issues, but we must be willing to draw from the wisdom and the strength of our Church leaders, who continually seek and receive divine guidance.
Years ago President Joseph F. Smith gave us an answer and a promise when he said, “If you will gather your children around you once a week and instruct them in the gospel, they will not go astray.”
The prophet Nephi’s counsel applies today as it did in days of old. He admonished:
“… remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer … that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … when all of his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you … because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Hel. 5:12.)
May this be so with your family, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.