The subject I have been assigned is the following sentence from the proclamation on the family: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”1 I want to approach this subject in a very different manner than you might be familiar with in other training meetings. I will not quote much from handbooks; instead, I want to talk to you heart to heart about your service in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom. The purpose will be to see if together we can better understand how to balance our responsibilities to love and care for our families with the other special callings our Father in Heaven has given to us.
As the Church was being organized on April 6, 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation that is now recorded in the 21st section of the Doctrine and Covenants. A portion of the revelation reads:
“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ,
“Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith. …
“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:1–2, 4–5).
Among the first instructions given to this newly organized Church was to follow the inspiration and revelation that comes from the Lord, through His prophet, in fulfilling our responsibilities to build His kingdom. He has promised to direct us in the course that should be ours to carry on this great work.
I think President Gordon B. Hinckley, our prophet today, gave us the key to balance our responsibilities in an earlier worldwide leadership training meeting, held on June 21, 2003. In that broadcast he stated:
“Yours … is the privilege of standing in the shadow of the Redeemer of the world as we carry forward this work. Yours is the opportunity to speak of the beauty of the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in behalf of His sons and daughters. Could there be a greater privilege than this?
“Rejoice in the privilege which is yours. Your opportunity will not last forever. Too soon there will be only the memory of the great experience you are now having.
As you remember, in that broadcast he explained our fourfold responsibility. The first applies to the subject we are addressing in this broadcast. He stated:
“First, it is imperative that you not neglect your families. Nothing you have is more precious. Your wives and your children are deserving of the attention of their husbands and fathers. When all is said and done, it is this family relationship which we will take with us into the life beyond. To paraphrase the words of scripture, ‘What shall it profit a man though he serve the Church faithfully and lose his own family?’ (see Mark 8:36).”3
This has been a continuing message from our prophets since the early days of the organization of the Church. The most important place for gospel teaching and leadership is in the family and in the home. If we follow these instructions, we will give assignments and plan programs, activities, and classes which will complement and support our families.
How we use our time and keep our lives in balance is fundamental to how we will perform our family duties and our Church service. Discipline yourself to follow the prophet’s counsel on how you prioritize the use of your time.
Your Eternal Companion
Begin by discussing with your eternal companion how much time you need together to strengthen your marriage, to demonstrate the love you have for each other. That is your first priority.
The Church is to help individuals and families come unto Christ and obtain eternal life. Eternal life is God’s greatest gift to His children, and it is obtained only through a family relationship. This relationship must start with the union between husband and wife, which is sacred to the Lord and is something not to be trifled with. The marriage covenant is essential for the Lord’s plan and is the purpose for which He created the heavens and the earth. In all periods of history, He has given His divine law to safeguard and protect the holy union between husband and wife.
Second, consider the spiritual needs of your children. How much time is necessary to be certain you are being close to them? It is your responsibility as fathers and mothers to provide adequate time to teach them, for the most important instruction children will ever receive should come from their parents. We need to be familiar with what the Church is teaching our children so that we can be in harmony with that teaching in our instructions to each child. For example, the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, quoting the proclamation on the family, gives young people this counsel about families:
“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”4
The pamphlet continues:
“Being part of a family is a great blessing. Your family can provide you with companionship and happiness, help you learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and help you prepare for eternal life. Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan.
“Do your part to build a happy home. Be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of others. Many problems in the home are created because family members speak and act selfishly or unkindly. Concern yourself with the needs of other family members. Seek to be a peacemaker rather than to tease, fight, and quarrel. Remember that the family is the most sacred unit of the Church.”5
Providing for Your Family
Our third priority is to provide for our family units. Again from the proclamation on the family:
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”6
We need to maintain good skills to be gainfully employed. In a changing world, we must keep up-to-date, or our skills will become obsolete. Even though we are busy in Church assignments, we should not pass up opportunities to increase our development and improve the welfare of our families. This requires that we invest adequate time and thought to preparing for the future.
This counsel applies to the sisters as well as the brethren. Although the responsibility to provide for the family belongs primarily to fathers, the proclamation indicates that “disability, death, or other circumstances”7 may also require you sisters to use and develop your skills to provide for your families.
Fourth in our priority is our commitment to the time we spend in Church activities. Active Latter-day Saint families value their Church time and make choices in their family life to make room for it.
Leaders need to be especially sensitive to different family situations when they extend calls and create expectations. Families with young children where both parents have demanding calls that take them out of the home are the most likely to feel that Church activities interfere with their family life. Church leaders can help by acknowledging and validating members’ efforts to balance Church service with their family responsibilities.
There are ways to increase our association with our families while we serve in our Church callings by involving our families, when appropriate, in our Church service. Let me give you one personal example.
My father served as my bishop during the early years of my life. He was a busy man with a demanding legal practice. He was also active in civic affairs and in demand as a public speaker. And, of course, he was the father of six children. I was always grateful that my father had his priorities right. Mother was always his first priority. It was evident by the way he treated her. This was followed by a real dedication to each of his children.
When I was about six years old, I received a red wagon as a Christmas gift. It was exactly like this one in miniature. The little red wagon provided a real bond between my father and me. In his busy life, he had to find ways of involving his family in activities without diminishing his own productivity.
Much of his service as a bishop occurred during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Many of our ward members were in desperate need. As the bishop, he had the responsibility of supplying the means to sustain their lives. This seemed to be a good activity for a bishop, his son, and the little red wagon.
I would come home from school and find stacks on the side of the garage—flour, sugar, wheat, and other commodities. I knew that that evening my father and I would have the opportunity of being together.
When he would arrive home, the little red wagon was loaded with supplies to take to a family. The two of us, walking and talking together, would complete our welfare assignment by delivering the commodities to those in need.
I was able to witness firsthand the love and care a good priesthood leader had for his ward members. More important, I had an opportunity of spending precious time with my father.
Let me encourage you to do what we taught you in the first worldwide leadership training meeting. We remind you that all units of the Church are at different stages of development, and all units have different needs. When we are planning our Church programs, the families must be taken into consideration.
Again, we caution you not to burden your membership with more than one Church calling, plus home teaching and visiting teaching. Discipline yourself to stick to the basic priorities, and you will be surprised how the inspiration of the Lord will direct you as you carry on your responsibilities to be a servant in His kingdom.
The ultimate focus of the restored Church is to facilitate and bring about opportunities for us to assist the Lord in His work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. We do this primarily by strengthening families. In an age of moral decline, political uncertainty, international unrest, and economic instability, our focus on strengthening and stabilizing families must be enhanced and magnified. The very purpose of the Church is to assist families in obtaining salvation and exaltation in the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Several years ago we published a special Family Guidebook. It was for the use of members, especially those who are new converts or have limited Church experience. We encourage you to use it. It begins with a statement:
“The family is the basic unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the most important social unit in time and eternity. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life.
“The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply gospel principles.”8
Again, we encourage you to refer to this booklet’s helpful teachings.
Our Lord and Savior ministered personally to the people, lifting the downtrodden, giving hope to the discouraged, and seeking out the lost. By His words and actions, He showed the people that He loved and understood and appreciated them. He recognized the divine nature and eternal worth of each individual. Even when calling people to repentance, He condemned the sin without condemning the sinner.
Like our Savior, as Church leaders we should love the people we serve, showing care and concern for each one individually. May the Lord bless us in the sacred responsibility He has given us is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.