Good morning brothers and sisters, I’m glad to be here today. The scriptures teach us that there are two reasons why we came to earth, two closely related reasons. First we learn from the prophet Abraham that we were all spirits in the preexistence and we were sent to earth in order to be tested. “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” (italics added, Abraham 3:25). The second reason we came to earth was to get a body. And not only just to get a body but to return it pure to our Father in heaven in order to become like God. The Prophet Joseph said that “we came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment” (Teachings of the Presidents Joseph Smith, pg 211). The Lord knew that to do that, to return our body to him pure, we would need help, we would need protection, and we would need instruction.
We know, from the Book of Mormon and the prophet Nephi, that when we say “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” we also can say “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Does that mean that we can keep all the commandments we read in the scriptures, and that we hear in General Conference? Yes, it does, but that is a talk for another time. The purpose for this talk is to think of that scripture and realize that our Heavenly Father has prepared a way for us to take this physical body and do all things that the Lord commands us and therefore return it pure to heaven at the end of our life. And the way, maybe the only way, to do that is in the family, and with our family.
Many of us have been on missions and the rest of us have known the missionaries and perhaps been taught by them. On a mission the mission president, and the missionaries, tend to focus, rightly so to a degree, on baptism. Our goal as members is to prepare investigators to be taught by the missionaries. The missionaries’ goal is to teach the investigators and prepare them for baptism. The converts’ goal (and each of us is a convert and should repeatedly be so throughout our lives) is to get ourselves and our whole family to the temple. Why? The temple is all about the family, the eternal family. Worthy families go to the temple and slowly perfect themselves to become eternal families with our heavenly Father. May I repeat: Worthy families go to the temple and slowly perfect themselves to become eternal families with our heavenly Father. Elder Bednar tells of when he was recently called to be the Stake President. In talking to a friend who was a former stake president, his friend mentioned how important his call as a temple worker was and how he wished he had been a temple worker before he was a stake president so that he could focus his stake on the temple and help to shepherd the Saints to the Lord’s house. I pray that we may all realize how important the temple is. The temple and the covenants contained and fulfilled therein are the only ways to make our earthly family an eternal family. They are the only way to take our whole family back to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Please notice that the reason the church, it’s activities and it’s lessons and it’s leaders, focus so much on the temple is because of the covenants of the temple that allow us to have eternal families. The family is the central unit of the church because it, combined with the temple, prepares us and helps us to be pure in the presence of God. Parents teach their children how to live, how to act, how to speak, how to read the scriptures, how to attend church, how to pray, and how to attend the temple regularly and frequently. The scriptures are full of how parents can do that. Nephi teaches us that a major part of his preparation in becoming a prophet was his being “born of goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1). He had visions regularly because of his father’s visions “And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, . . . was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost. . .” (1 Nephi 10:17). Nephi became a righteous man, leader, and prophet, because of how and what his parents taught him. No wonder the church places preeminence on the family unit.
Our Heavenly Father knows what our families go through. He knows what the world is like now and He knows that our homes need to be, and should be, a safe and righteous place for our families to be. A number of years ago the then Elder Eyring explained how the family creates in us a desire to return to our heavenly Father and the family helps us to do so by teaching us the gospel. He said he knew it would be hard because of Satan, trying to keep us from it. He quoted the prophet Brigham Young “The men and women who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom will find that they must battle every day” (To Draw Closer To God, Henry B Eyring, pg 114). Our family helps us in that battle. President Hinckely said in an interview “ ‘We have a family home evening program once a week across the Church in which parents sit down with their children. They study the scriptures. They talk about family problems. They plan family activities and things of that kind. I don’t hesitate to say if every family in the world practiced that one thing, you’d see a very great difference in the solidarity of the families of the world’ (interview, Boston Globe, 14 Aug. 2000).”
In family home evening each week we can prepare our family to go out and not only face the world, but to return with honor, pure and clean and ready to approach God in humble prayer. Think of that, brothers and sisters, we teach our kids from when they are little to pray and then they will know forever that they have not only a loving Father in heaven who wants to help them and who loves them, but also that they can petition help from God, the creator, the all knowing and the all powerful. Do you think He will ignore us when we ask for help? I testify that He will not! Do you think He will abandon us when things seem to be going wrong? Again, I testify that He will not! Never! So in family home evening we teach our children to pray and how to face the world, in other words we prepare them for that battle that getting to the Celestial Kingdom is going to be. In that same BYU devotional from which he quoted the Prophet Brigham Young, Elder Eyring also told another story about his father. His father was a famous, world renowned and respected scientist who in his later years contracted, and eventually died from, bone cancer. He tells how his family would take turns sitting with his father through the long months of his illness and how they all had to watch him suffer from the terrible pain. Elder Eyring said “One night, when I was not with him and the pain seemed more than he could bear, he somehow got out of bed and on his knees beside it-I know not how. He pled with God to know why he was suffering so. And the next morning he said, with quiet firmness, ‘I know why now. God needs brave sons.’” (To Draw Closer to God, Henry B. Eyring, pg 116).
We will all face those moments in life when we will ask God to know why we are suffering so. Remember, God needs brave sons and daughters. Family provides that example of righteousness and strength for us. That brave example we rely on when the going gets tough, as they say. I watched my grandfather, for the last nine years care for my grandmother as she suffered through Alzheimer’s. He watched her at home until she could hardly remember her own children’s and grandchildren’s names and then he had to put her in a home. But he wasn’t done then. I remember many, many holidays where we got to go visit Nana at the cottages. She called all the men by the same name because she couldn’t remember who we really were and at first it was the name of her only son and then it was the name of one of her brothers. And all the women she called by the same name, her sister’s name as well, but she always knew my grandpa’s name. Eventually she lost all ability to speak anything but gibberish, and then eventually she lost the ability to recognize when people were interacting with her. Through all those long years that Nana was in the Alzheimer’s home, my grandfather would visit her three times a day, for every meal. I still remember how lovingly he would talk to her (even when she couldn’t and didn’t respond), how he would buy her things, how he would feed her when he could, and how he would kiss her hello and goodbye. Grandpa even got so forgetful with old age that he always asked me how I was doing in school and what I was studying, even though I graduated four years ago, but he still visited Nana three times a day. We maintain that he was holding on just long enough for Nana. She passed away on Mother’s day last year and within one month of her passing my grandfather began to forget people’s names and things he’d done. He doesn’t remember me very much anymore and Nana is gone, but I will always, always remember how beautiful a temple marriage can and should be.
It is from this example, and the example of my father’s parents and from my own parents, and even from stories of my ancestors, that I know what it means to be a Hamblin. Do you know what it means to honor your last name? We all need to remember that we have taken upon us the “family” name of Jesus Christ. When we take the sacrament we take His name upon us. Just as we worry about what our earthly parents think of us and we try to do what they tell us to do, we should try to do what our Heavenly Parents tell us to do. That means that we need to try and be in tune with the Holy Ghost as much as possible. He will tell us what the Lord and our Heavenly Father want us to do. He will help us as we read the scriptures, and we should read them every day, to know what lessons Heavenly Father would have us learn. All of these things will help us as we interact with our family members on a daily basis. Parents will learn, by reading and studying the scriptures themselves, how to teach their children and what they need to teach them. Family scripture study and family prayer will draw a family closer together, so when there are problems, when someone is being tempted or feels in trouble, they will know where to turn to seek the help they need, to the family. Each of us should compliment with sincerity our family members more often. When life gets tough we turn to those people on whom we can trust and who will help. If we are constantly demanding things from our family, never giving of ourselves, and we do not tell them nor show them how much we love them, when life gets tough for them they may not turn to us. And if that prevents us or them from drawing our family back to Heavenly Father we will forever be sad.
To have an eternal family what do we need to do? We need to have faith in Jesus Christ, we need to seek the guidance of the holy Ghost, we need to read and study the scriptures daily, we need to attend church, we need to be charitable to others, we need to teach our children and families to do these things, and then we need to take everyone we can to the Temple. We have to keep doing these things, but I promise we will be helped as we have family home evening and daily family scripture study and prayer. I know we will be blessed. I know the Lord wants us to do this and I know also that the lord will prepare a way for us to have eternal families.