All over the world, from Asia to Africa, from New Zealand to Norway, the wonderful young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are turning hearts to the family. It’s a worldwide celebration of families this whole year. We know that families are a vital part of Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. This is explained in the document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
I remember so well when that proclamation was presented. It was very impressive to me. On September 23, 1995, the women of the Church were gathered in a great general Relief Society meeting. Our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, stood to speak to us. As part of his talk, he read for the first time a document called “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In this proclamation we are taught again, by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that Heavenly Father has a plan for His children and that families are the central part of that plan. It is vital, then, that we strengthen these families which are so very important in the sight of God.
You young women have an important role to play in at least three families. The first is the family you are part of now, the second is your future family, and the third is the heavenly family of which we are all part. Let us consider our place in each of these three families.
First, let’s consider the family you are growing up in now. When I think about the family I grew up in, I remember how my little sister and I shared the bedroom and the piano and washing dishes. I remember getting the giggles with my brother at suppertime, and we laughed so hard we had to be sent away from the table until we quit.
Oh, you learn a lot of things in a family, don’t you? And they’re important things—things like praying and sharing and laughing and loving and working and getting along with others. How thankful I am for all the important lessons of life that I learned in my family.
Many of you young women have written and shared with us your family experiences and some of the things you are learning as you have turned your hearts to your families. Twelve-year-old Katie Quinn wrote:
“My mother was expecting a baby. … She was bedridden much of the time … and all of a sudden there was a ton of responsibility on my shoulders because I am the oldest. I was also just starting middle school and had loads of homework.
“I knew I needed to help a lot, and I even prayed to know what I should do. I felt an answer came when my grandmother, who was staying with us for a few weeks, told me a story about one of my ancestors who at age 11 had driven a covered wagon by himself across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. His parents had died along the way, and he was left to care for four younger sisters, including a baby, and take them to Zion. This story made me realize that I could be like my great-great-great-grandfather and push forward.
“I decided it would help my family if I made sack lunches for my sisters or do other duties like folding clothing and ironing and other extra chores.
“I gathered my younger sisters and brother every morning before school and carried on our family scripture reading, even though my father had left earlier for work and my mother was too sick to lead us.
“My family … grew closer together because [we] had to help each other. The greatest blessing happened on May 1, 1997, when Hannah Ada Quinn was born” (personal letter in author’s possession).
Thank you for the letter, Katie.
She learned about determination and courage and loyalty to family from her third great-grandfather who lived so long ago, and then she used those qualities as she helped her family who needed her. Many of you are doing similar things to bless and strengthen your families.
Do you realize that Katie and you are preparing for your future family by learning and practicing on your parents and brothers and sisters?
May I ask you to think now for a moment about your future family. Can you imagine yourself as a mother? Close your eyes. Picture yourself in 10 years. What will you be doing? Will you be getting an education or learning a useful skill? What will you be like? Open your eyes. In your mind’s eye, do you see yourself as nurturers of precious sons and daughters of Heavenly Father? You can practice now by being loving and gentle to little children and by saying the kindest things in the kindest way in your home. Do you picture yourself as a mother who could help her children with learning math or science or history? If so, guess what you’d better do at school! Do you want to have beauty and music and refinement in your home? Today you can begin developing your artistic and musical talents for the sake of your future home and family. Do you want to have peace and order in your home? Then, my dear young sisters, be the peacemaker, help keep your home clean and orderly, help with the laundry. Can you imagine your future family sitting around a table laughing and sharing ideas and enjoying the delicious, nutritious food that you prepared with love? Then it looks like you’ll have to learn to cook! Help prepare the meals. Collect recipes from your mother and grandmother. Learn how to make strudel or poi or tortillas—your family favorites, whatever they are.
Let me tell you what I see in you. I see in you young women who are getting an education and are preparing to bless others through it. Please, for yourself and your future family, choose a fine education. Be qualified. Be well rounded. Work hard. In you young women, I see girls who look forward to establishing a home of love, a home of order, a home of faith.
I see young women who understand that the things you do today will make you the kind of strong, faithful woman that the Lord needs to bless His children. You want to teach your family of Heavenly Father and His ways, and you know how and where to go for that preparation, don’t you? Scripture study, Church meetings, prayer, seminary, family home evening.
In preparation for your future, may I invite you to do something when you get home tonight? Would you please go to your journal and write in it all about the kind of woman you would like to become? And then will you work toward making that dream of your future become a reality in your life? In this way you will be turning your heart to the family you will one day have.
Now, let us consider your part in Heavenly Father’s family. You are a remarkable, precious daughter of Heavenly Father who loves you. You were chosen before this world was to come forth to do some very unusual and wonderful things! Listen to this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 138, verse 56: “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” Did you know that? Our Heavenly Father sent us here to earth for a purpose.
It is a divine and priceless blessing to be born a woman. Your Heavenly Father blessed you, His daughters, with some very precious qualities in extra capacity—qualities such as sensitivity, spirituality, a loving, nurturing nature. Please take opportunities to develop these divine gifts and then use them to bless others. Be happy. Scatter a little sunshine. You could observe faithful women you admire and then adopt into your own life the qualities that make these women successful, happy daughters of God. He will help you do that because He wants you to be the best you can be.
Because we were sent here to earth to be tested and to prove ourselves, there may be some things in life that won’t turn out exactly as we have planned. That’s the way with earthly life. But remember this: when you work hard and prepare yourself to make contributions and keep covenants you make at baptism and in the temple, you can meet any of the challenges of life with faith and hope and courage! As part of His plan, Heavenly Father provided a Savior who will help us in this life, and He will help us return back home to Him. He said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He loves you. He wants you to be successful. And He will help you succeed in your life’s mission.
As I began talking to you tonight, I was remembering the family I grew up in. In closing, let me tell you something else I remember about that family. When I was only nine years old, our one-day-old baby brother died. We were so sad and disappointed and crying so hard. And do you know what our father did? He gathered us together, and we knelt in family prayer. He thanked Heavenly Father for this little baby that we’d had such a short time, and then he asked the Lord to bless this little baby, David, who was now in heaven. Daddy asked Heavenly Father to bless our mom, who was very sick. Mother regained her health, and we’ve all tried to live so that we can be reunited as a family with David one day. I always pray for David. He will always be my brother. We are an eternal family because our parents were married in the temple. You can give your children that same gift, the blessing of belonging to an eternal family. It is the most priceless gift you could ever provide for them. Plan to do it. Prepare to do it. Live worthy of it. May He bless you to do so, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.