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April 1999 General Conference

Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty

by Elder Robert D. Hales

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The key to strengthening our families is having the Spirit of the Lord come into our homes. The goal of our families is to be on the strait and narrow path.

Strengthening families is our sacred duty as parents, children, extended family members, leaders, teachers, and individual members of the Church.

The importance of spiritually strengthening families is taught clearly in the scriptures. Father Adam and Mother Eve taught their sons and daughters the gospel. The sacrifices of Abel were accepted by the Lord, whom he loved. Cain, on the other hand, "loved Satan more than God" and committed serious sins. Adam and Eve "mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren," but they never ceased to teach their children the gospel (see Moses 5:12, 18, 20, 27; 6:1, 58).

We must understand that each of our children comes with varying gifts and talents. Some, like Abel, seem to be given gifts of faith at birth. Others struggle with every decision they make. As parents, we should never let the searching and struggling of our children make us waver or lose our faith in the Lord.

Alma the Younger, when "racked with torment . . . [and] harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins," remembered hearing his father teach about the coming of "Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world" (Alma 36:17). His father's words led to his conversion. In like manner, our teaching and testimony will be remembered by our children.

The 2,000 stripling warriors in the army of Helaman testified that their righteous mothers had powerfully taught gospel principles to them (see Alma 56:4748).

At a time of great spiritual searching, Enos said, "The words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life . . . sunk deep into my heart" (Enos 1:3).

In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says that parents are to teach their children "to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old. . . .

"And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (68:25, 28).

As we teach our children the gospel through word and example, our families are spiritually strengthened and fortified.

The words of living prophets are clear regarding our sacred duty to strengthen our families spiritually. In 1995 the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation to the world, declaring that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . . Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. . . . Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, [and] to observe the commandments of God" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," ENSIGN, Nov. 1995, 102; Liahona, June 1996, 1011).

In February of this year, the First Presidency issued a call to all parents "to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility."

In the February letter, the First Presidency taught that by teaching and rearing children in gospel principles, parents can protect their families from corrosive elements. They further counseled parents and children "to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform" (First Presidency letter, 11 Feb. 1999; cited in Church News, 27 Feb. 1999, 3).

With the help of the Lord and His doctrine, all the hurtful effects from challenges a family may meet can be understood and overcome. Whatever the needs of family members may be, we can strengthen our families as we follow the counsel given by prophets.

The key to strengthening our families is having the Spirit of the Lord come into our homes. The goal of our families is to be on the strait and narrow path.

Countless things can be done within the walls of our homes to strengthen the family. May I share a few ideas that may help identify the areas that need strengthening in our own families. I offer them in a spirit of encouragement, knowing that each family--and each family member--is unique.

Teach our children the significance of baptism and confirmation, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, partaking of the sacrament, honoring the priesthood, and making and keeping temple covenants. They need to know the importance of living worthy of a temple recommend and preparing for a temple marriage.

Resources are available outside the home. Wise use of them will strengthen our families.

Knowing that we are in mortality to learn and to develop our faith, we should understand that there must be opposition in all things. During a family council in my own home, my wife said, "When you may think that someone has a perfect family, you just do not know them well enough."

Brothers and sisters, as parents let us heed the admonition, even the rebuke, given by the Lord to Joseph Smith and the leaders of the Church in 1833 to "set in order [our] own house" (D&C 93:43). "I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth" (D&C 93:40). "Set in order [our] family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place" (D&C 93:50).

The prophets of our day have given a similar admonition and warning to parents to set in order our families. May we be blessed with the inspiration and love to meet opposition with faith within our families. We will then know that our trials are to draw us closer to the Lord and to one another. May we listen to a prophet's voice and set in order our own homes (see D&C 93:4149). The family is strengthened as we draw near to the Lord, and each member of the family is strengthened as we lift and strengthen and love and care for one another. "Thee lift me and I'll lift thee, and we'll ascend together" (Quaker proverb).

May we be able to welcome and maintain the Spirit of the Lord in our homes to strengthen our families. That each of our family members can stay on the "strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life" (2 Ne. 31:18), I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(See Teachings About the Family home page; Parenting home page; Conferences home page; April 1999 General Conference home page)

Copyright 1999. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All rights reserved.

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