Our Leaders Talk about Families


The whole purpose of the Church may be stated as the preparation of Heavenly Father’s children to return to their heavenly home. As we consider this, the importance of family life here on the earth becomes even more obvious. Our earthly families are actually microstudies designed to teach us by experience how to get along with our heavenly family. In a heavenly sense, our parents are children too. Do you wonder why there are disagreements in your home? Why your parents don’t always understand? Why your little brother gets on your nerves?

Could it be that your Heavenly Father is blessing you with precisely the problems you will need to know how to cope with in order to live happily with him in his heavenly home?

In family life, as in all things, we can look to the General Authorities for an example. Here we see the stability, tenderness, and communication we want in our own homes—and in their teachings we see the way.

Many inspiring stories have been told by the General Authorities about families—their own and families they have known. Of these stories we present a small sampling.

When our eldest daughter was to be married to a fine Latter-day Saint boy the two mothers were in the corner of the room talking to each other, and the mother of our oldest daughter said, “You know, from the time my little girl was born, I have been praying all my life that somewhere a mother would be preparing a son worthy to marry my daughter.” And this other mother smiled and said, “Isn’t that strange? This is my only son who is being married to your daughter, and ever since he was born, I, too, have been praying that somewhere there would be a mother preparing a daughter worthy to meet and to marry my son.”

It is that kind of home attention—mothers preparing daughters, fathers and mothers, sons—that will make us and our homes stronger today.

President Harold B. Lee Conference Report, October 1964, p. 86.

I remember so well how my father used to get us together in family prayer and how he would talk to the Lord. He just didn’t say a few words and off we would go to the fields. He kneeled down with us and he talked to the Lord. He told the Lord about some of our weaknesses and some of our problems, where we had failed, and he apologized for us. “Eldon didn’t do exactly what he should have done today. We are sorry that he made this mistake. But we feel sure, Heavenly Father, that if thou wilt forgive him, he will determine to do what is right. Let thy Spirit be with him and bless him that he can be the kind of boy we would like to have.”

My, that was a help! He used to say in the morning, “Let your blessings attend us as we go about our duties that we may do what is right and return tonight to make a report.” I used to think of that: “I am going to report to the Lord tonight.” It helped me materially in the kind of life I lived during the day.

Father thanked the Lord for our crops and for our home, for the country in which we lived, for one another, and for many, many things, and always asked the Lord to let His blessings attend us.

He told us about Joseph Smith’s prayer—how he went out into the grove to pray and the result; how God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, and he said, “That’s the kind of God we are talking to, boys.” We knew it as he prayed, and we learned to pray. We depended a great deal on the blessings of our Heavenly Father as we went through life.

I recall an experience while I was a deacon. I had a sister who had spinal meningitis, and a very severe case of it. I remember one night as we knelt in prayer Father said to me, “My boy, you hold the priesthood now; I wish you would lead in prayer, and remember Lillie.” She had been, and was at that time, very, very sick. They didn’t know whether she would live or not. As I prayed with the family, the feeling came to me that she would be made well.

President N. Eldon Tanner Adapted from “My Experiences and Observations,” BYU Speeches of the Year, May 17, 1966, pp. 7–8.

May I tell a little story? More than half a century ago, I was standing on a little railway station platform in Cardston, Canada. I was leaving for England on a mission. My saintly mother stood there with me and held my hand. This is what she said. “Hugh, my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams, nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room: ‘Mother, Mother, are you there?’ Do you remember I always said, ‘Yes, my son, I’m here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right.’” She said, “My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort. Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when you are confused and don’t know where to go, call out and say, ‘Father, are you there?’” She said, “My boy, I promise you He will always answer and you need not fear.”

My dear sisters, through the intervening years, countless occasions have arisen where men could not help me much, when I felt alone, where I had a nightmare with my eyes wide open. I have taken the advice of my mother and have said, “Father, are you there?” Now He has not spoken to me audibly; He has not appeared to me personally; but He has always answered me. There has come into my heart a quiet peace which enabled me to know that I could, figuratively, turn over and go to sleep.

Hugh B. Brown The Abundant Life (Bookcraft 1965) pp. 202–3.

… There came into the office a while ago a man who wanted to take a car to his son in the mission field. He said, “My son is riding a bicycle and I am afraid he is going to get killed. Can I take a car to him?”

I said, “You can if the mission president feels he needs one.”

Correspondence went back and forth, and finally approval was given for the young man to have a car. The father came in after he had taken the car and said, “I’m proud of my boy in the field. We had never been very close when he was at home. There had always been something of a gulf between us. I want to tell you what happened.

“I drove a thousand miles to deliver the car to my son. I went to his place of lodging and rang the bell. He came to the door, and said, ‘Hello, Dad. Glad to see you. Is that the car? I’m late for a meeting. If you can come around at eight o’clock tonight down at such and such an address where we are having a baptismal service, maybe I’ll have a few minutes to visit with you.’

“I hadn’t seen him for sixteen months and that’s the kind of reception I got. I felt like getting in the car and driving back home. But I went out, had some dinner and took a little nap and thought better of it. I went to the hall where the baptismal service was held. My boy was the supervising elder of the district.

“I arrived late and sat on the back row. They had just finished the baptismal service and were having something of a testimony meeting. A man stood up and said, ‘I’m retired. I’ve made some money. I’ve traveled around the world. I thought I had seen everything and had everything. Then one day that young man who is sitting here came to my door. Time was heavy on my hands; I let him in; I listened to him. He intrigued me, and I listened again. He has brought something to me more wonderful than all I have ever seen or all I have ever known. And I want to bear testimony to the truth of what he brought, and before you people here, express gratitude of the Lord for having sent him to my door.’

“He was talking about my boy. I am not a sentimental sort of a man, but the tears began to roll off my cheeks. I’ve come closer to my boy in one day in the mission field than I came in twenty years at home. I have concluded to be a better man myself. I have changed my life so that I may be worthy of my son.”

Gordon B. Hinckley “The Consequences of Conversion,” BYU Speeches of the Year, January 28, 1959, pp. 3–4.

About twelve years ago I had a call early in the morning from a beloved friend who is a physician. He asked me to come to the hospital to administer with him to his infant son, just born and fighting for his life. We reached our hands into the incubator and laid them on this tiny boy and prayed, and then sat and waited with Larry’s mother while he took a turn for the better. We were there when the pediatrician came to announce that he was going to make it. He came through that difficult ordeal with a fine mind and a strong, indomitable spirit. Only a pair of legs that were not quite as strong as they one day will be remain to remind Larry how blessed he is to be alive. Recently this little boy’s big brother returned from having served an honorable mission for the Lord abroad. A perceptive uncle, observing the reunion at the airport, wrote a letter to Larry that I had the privilege of reading. I asked if I might have permission to quote it and have been given that permission. I would like you to know about a Latter-day Saint boy just ordained a deacon who tries to practice what we preach.

“Dear Larry,” the letter said, “Yesterday I got a lump in my throat without even swallowing a frog. … More than that, I got a picture tatooed on my memory that I’ll never forget.

“It’s only right that I thank you for the lump, the tears, and the picture, for a handsome boy named Larry Ellsworth gave me all three of them … and he didn’t even know it or ask me for a receipt.

“It started when he stood waiting for his brother to return from serving our Heavenly Father as a missionary for two years in a far-off land named Chile. You could see that the two years had been longer for the boy than for anyone else. He was so intense, so pale, so absorbed with just watching and waiting.

“Then to see his face light up when he saw his brother again! It was like a flashlight in a dark room.

“Someone whispered that this wonderful boy had been saving his nickels, dimes and quarters for two years to buy his big brother a basketball … a more than $30 ‘best there is’ basketball because he loved him! He wouldn’t let anyone else contribute. It was his idea and his gift … the best way, out of money he would have spent for himself but chose not to because he loved someone else so much!

“Then I watched this fine boy stand, without saying a word, at the side of his brother, happy just to look way up to his face, hold on to his leg, and see him home again.

“I have a special love and admiration for both of those boys; the giant who went far away all alone to do what was right and the little brother who waited and planned and remembered.

“Larry, you’re a fine boy. I’m sure that you’ll be a great man … for you have a big heart and a tender conscience. Some can run faster, jump higher, walk farther, play longer just because they had an easier time getting born into this world. That’s no credit to them. But you have more than most to be thankful for, because Heavenly Father sent one of his favorite sons to live in your body … and it’s who lives in the house that makes all the difference. Thanks, Larry, for the lesson an old dumb uncle learned yesterday just by watching. Love, Uncle Dick.”

Marion D. Hanks Conference Report, April 1971, pp. 129–30.

Let me share briefly with you a letter. …

“Dear Brother Dunn:

“Since having the chance to visit with you last month, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the things we discussed—the meaning of life, my goals for the future, my homesickness, and my efforts to adjust to being on my own, and I’ve felt impressed to write and tell you some of these things. Here I am hundreds of miles away in a completely new environment, and I’ll admit I’ve been pretty down in the dumps at times, plenty homesick and wondering just what my next step would be. More than once I’d have given almost anything to be back at that kitchen table with the family, finishing off one of Mom’s good meals. I wouldn’t even have minded my folks wanting to know where I was going and when I’d be home—it used to really bug me but somehow now I’m glad they worried. I guess what I’m trying to write is that since being here I’m actually appreciating home and my folks in a different way then ever before. I’m grateful for the time that they’ve taken to worry about the little things, the talks we’ve been able to have about any crazy thing that was on my mind, the freedom I felt to go to them with my problems. It seems like they were always pretty fair about judging me when I made mistakes, too.

“I especially appreciate both Morn and Dad being so careful about living the principles of the gospel that they believed in and helping us to do the same. While there were times when I resented it, somehow it seems much easier now for me to discipline myself, to stick to what I should do in organizing my time, thinking, and life.

“I appreciate, too, the companionship we had as the whole family—the night each week we got together to talk about family problems and what we did about them, the times we went fishing together, prayed together, the get-togethers with cousins—mostly the things I guess I have taken for granted all of my life. Somehow, as ordinary as all of these everyday experiences are, thinking about them actually gives me the faith and courage I need right now when I’ve got so much adjusting to do and so many things to accomplish. I seem to have a new desire to live up to the things my folks have been trying to prepare me for all of these years. In some ways, even though I miss home, thinking out these things makes me feel better than I ever have before. I know I have lots to do, and I want to do it. And realizing that my family is behind me as they always have been gives me the strength I need and didn’t know I had. Unfortunately, I have seen some out here whose home life has not been like mine, and now I understand better the value of the training I’ve had. Thanks for getting me started thinking—I just hope my parents can know how much the stability of our home has meant to me, and how very much I love them.”

There is no question that this kind of boy coming from this type of home is going to give strength to this or any nation.

Paul H. Dunn Conference Report October 1965, p. 117.

The responsibility of communication is not alone on the shoulders of parents. The youth also have a responsibility to contribute love and strength to the family organization.

I recall a stage play that recently was made into a movie. It dealt with parents whose only child, a son, returned from military service. The father and son had never been close. It was a situation in which both father and son loved each other but were unable to find ways to express themselves, and therefore hostilities arose because each thought the other did not like him. It was a breakdown of communication.

But now the son was home from the army, and things were different. The father and son began to establish a whole new relationship. The high point of the play came when the boy said to his father something like this:

“Dad, I always resented you when I was younger because you never told me that you loved me, but then I realized that I had never told you that I loved you either. Well, Dad, I’m telling you now: I love you.”

For one electrifying moment the father and son embraced each other as the pent-up love and appreciation of years came flooding out. This probably would never have happened had the son not realized that he was as guilty of lack of expression as his parents.

Loren C. Dunn Conference Report April 1969, p. 22.

May I share with you a personal experience? We had spent nearly four years in South America and returned just in time for our eldest son to enter Brigham Young University. Several months after school had begun we received a call—I think it was a collect call—and the conversation proceeded something like this:

“Hello, Dad?”

“Yes.”

“This is David.”

“Yes, what do you want now?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing! Well, why did you call then?”

“Oh, I just wanted to tell you about school. I love it. It’s great. I am glad to be here. I like the place where I live. I like my roommate. I like my professors and I like the spirit here.”

And I said, “Yes, but what do you need?

“I don’t need anything.”

“Well, why did you call?”

“I just called to say ‘Thank you.’ I am grateful for your helping me to be here.”

Well, there was considerable silence on our end of the line and we muttered something about, “We’re glad you’re happy.” Later that night as his mother and I prayed, we thanked the Lord for a thankful son. The lesson, of course, came clear to me. I appreciate a son who says, “Thank you” for things that parents have done, as all parents do. But I am a son also. I have a Father in heaven, who, like me, appreciates a son or a daughter who frequently says, “Thank you.”

What kind of thanks?

There sits a young man here today in whose home I was a guest at a stake conference. Since he had recently left for the Y, I was to sleep in his room Saturday night. As his gracious mother showed me the room, she opened his closet where I saw a handwritten letter taped to the rod in the closet. It read:

Mom,

Thanks for all you’ve done to make this a “special summer.” You are a very “special mother” and I thank the Lord for the blessing of being your son.

I love you and appreciate all you do in my behalf. See you in November.

Paul.

As she paused while I read it, she said, “Hope you don’t mind hanging your clothes out here. This note is still kind of precious. You know, every time I open this closet I read it again, and I would like to leave it there a little longer.”

Well, Paul, you are probably leaving for home tomorrow. May I suggest that when you get home you take that sweet little mother of yours in those strong young arms and give her a squeeze so that she’ll know you are home—and thankful.

A. Theodore Tuttle “What Kind of Thanks,” BYU Speeches of the Year, November 26, 1968, p. 5.