It is a great privilege to be here today to address you. My heart is filled with wonderful feelings as I contemplate the great blessings we enjoy as a result of the reestablishment by the Lord of his church 144 years ago today.
His church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, exists for the perfecting of the Saints and for the unifying and exalting of the family of our Father in heaven.
“To the members of our Church,” President Stephen L Richards has said, “the home [or family] has an enlarged significance that is subordinate to nothing else in life, for it constitutes not only the source of our greatest happiness here in this life, but also the foundation of our exaltation and glory in the life to come. After all, it is essentially a religious institution. It has its origin in [a] religious ceremony. It is the fulfillment of [a] divine command. Its government is of a religious nature and the finest of its products are spiritual.” (Stephen L Richards, Where Is Wisdom? Deseret Book Co., 1955, p. 193.)
The Lord has said that in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood “the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84:20.) Thus, clothed with the holy priesthood of God and commissioned by the Lord, a man takes his place at the head of his family. Through his righteous leadership, the power of godliness may be manifest in his home. This sacred obligation and stewardship he shares with his wife, his helpmate. In partnership with our Heavenly Father, they experience the joy of creation as children bless their home and enlarge their family circle.
A wife and mother will be an inspiration to her family and to her husband and will honor him in his divine appointment as head of their family.
President Hugh B. Brown has said to the women of the Church:
“There is no better way to worship and glorify God than by assisting his sons on the upward and difficult climb. This takes patience, tolerance, forbearance and other typically feminine virtues.” (Hugh B. Brown, “The Exalted Sphere of Woman,” Relief Society Magazine, December 1965, p. 887.)
A husband and father will endeavor to be noble and faithful in carrying forth his sacred responsibility to teach correct principles to his children by precept and by example.
Recently I heard a father tell of the powerful influence his own testimony and example had in the life of his daughter. His lovely daughter was being pursued by an ardent admirer—one who had unfortunately turned away from the Church and who, through his wrongdoings, had been cut off from the blessings of the priesthood and Church membership. This girl thought she loved him and believed she might be happy with him.
Her concerned parents invited the young man into their home and tried to convince him of the need to put his life in order and to follow Christ. The father bore a fervent testimony of the reality of the Savior and of the joy that comes through obedience to his gospel. However, his words were rejected by the young man. In fact, the boy scoffed at such ideas and afterward tried to convince the girl that her father was old-fashioned and a hypocrite.
This accusation, the father said, was the young man’s undoing. That daughter defended her father and his beliefs. She knew him. She knew the validity of his testimony. She knew her father lived as he believed—his sincere love of the gospel and his example of living its teachings she could not doubt nor deny.
Her love she would save for another whose testimony was like that of her father, whose life would be blessed with the joy and peace that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today she is the wife of such a man, a happy mother of a lovely family born in the covenant of an eternal marriage. Oh, how blessed is the influence of a righteous father!
The scriptures tell us that “nevertheless neither is the man without the woman … in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
It was said of the great General Robert E. Lee that if he was early trained in the way he should go, his mother trained him. If he was “always good” as his father wrote of him, she labored to keep him so. If his principles were sound and his life a success, to her, more than to any other, should the praise be given. A family member wrote of him:
“As Robert grew in years he grew in grace; he was like the young tree whose roots firmly imbedded in the earth, hold it straight from the hour it was first planted till it develops into majestic proportions. With the fostering care of such a mother the son must go straight, for she had planted him in the soil of truth, morality, and religion, so that his boyhood was marked by everything that produces nobility of character in manhood.” (Fitzhugh Lee, General Lee, New York: New York University Society, 1905, pp. 20–22.)
Following a 13-year-old girl’s successful completion of a difficult and challenging assignment, she wrote this to her mother:
I have a secret
known only by me.
It helps me, it holds me,
It keeps me happy.
You will not believe this,
but surely it’s true
‘It’ is my mother.
Yes, Mother, it’s you.
You, you are my secret strength
And to you I’ll always be true
And here is a message
Which comes from my heart:
Mother, I love you.
A mother’s inherent qualities of trust, courage, and faith lend strength to every member of the family.
Children also provide strength to the lives of family members. As we celebrate the Easter season, we reverence the most significant demonstration of brotherly love ever shown. The atoning sacrifice of Christ was the supreme example of unselfish love. While Jesus was our only brother who could make such a sacrifice for us, each of us can and should make Christlike sacrifices daily for one another through unselfish actions and willing service. It is in the home that we experience many opportunities to do this.
One day my older brother, Lynn, came hurrying home from high school basketball practice, bringing a teammate with him. Upon entering the house, both made a dash for the kitchen to satisfy their hungry appetites. My brother’s friend loudly described his feeling of hunger by using a few vulgar and profane words to accent his anxious mood. Lynn quickly, quietly, but firmly said, “Hey, don’t talk like that. My little brothers might hear you. I don’t want them to learn words like that. Besides, they might think less of you than they ought to.”
Unknown to my brother, my friend and I did hear that conversation, but the profane words were quickly erased from my mind by the thoughtful concern and courage shown by my older brother. That experience made a positive, lasting impression on my young mind. At the risk of sacrificing a friendship, his kindly chastisement of his friend taught me a lesson of love and concern for others and of courage to uphold the right.
So important are our relationships with our family members as we learn these lessons of life that family home evening has been revealed by the Lord as a prescribed means for the enduring development of all family members.
Each Monday evening families will gather together, with father presiding, to experience one of the highlights of the week’s activities. During this special time together, the family, regardless of size or circumstances, may receive instruction and inspiration. Here in the sacredness of home father and mother teach correct gospel principles to their children. The children also have opportunities to teach and to share their thoughts and talents. Often the most effective learning takes place as family members help each other prepare for family home evening. Parents and children increase in their love and appreciation for one another as they participate in family home evening and strive to apply the principles learned there throughout the following weeks and years.
President Kimball, whom we have sustained as president and prophet today and of whom I testify is a living prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, has indicated that heaven was in his home when home evening was held. He has also said:
“While one objective is reached by merely being together, yet the additional and greater value can come from the lessons of life. The father will teach the children. Here they can learn integrity, honor, dependability, sacrifice, and faith in God. Life’s experiences and the scriptures are the basis of the teaching, and this, wrapped up in filial and parental love, makes an impact nothing else can make. Thus, reservoirs of righteousness are filled to carry children through the dark days of temptation and desire, of drought and skepticism. As they grow up, the children cooperate in building this storage for themselves and the family. And so we have as a basic part of the Lord’s programs the home evening and the family prayers and the teaching of gospel principles in our homes.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 113.)
The Lord has blessed us with families that we might maintain our eternal relationship with him. May we recognize the importance of this divine blessing and do all in our power to fulfill this sacred responsibility. May the Spirit of the Lord be with us in our homes, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.