Roundtable Discussion
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Julie B. Beck
Relief Society General President
Susan W. Tanner
Young Women General President
Cheryl C. Lant
Primary General President
(Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up a Righteous Posterity, February 9, 2008)


The Creator’s Plan

Elder Holland

We’re pleased to have with us Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Sister Julie Beck, general president of the Relief Society; Sister Susan Tanner, general president of the Young Women; and Sister Cheryl Lant, general president of the Primary. These leaders have been kind enough to invite me to join them at the table and have asked me to assume the role of moderating this discussion.

There is a statement in the worldwide proclamation on the family that says, “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”1 When we talk about marriage and family in the Church, why do we want to put it in the context of God’s plan? That’s the language we use; it’s the language we’ll undoubtedly use here tonight. Why do we put it in the context of eternity and the overall plan of salvation?

Elder Oaks

Well, in the family proclamation we’re told that the “family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” That means that our individual decisions and desires on marriage and the bearing and rearing of children are immensely important in eternal terms. We need to be guided in this by the commandments of God and the teachings of His servants, not by the icons of popular culture or the conventions of political correctness. I think that’s a main message we need to keep in mind and a main purpose for our addressing all of the adults of the Church in this important broadcast.

Elder Holland

Good. Thank you. Sisters, any comments about the eternal scheme of all of this, why we’re not just another social organization, or why we’re not an agency just speaking out of community needs? Any comments?

A Three-Way Commitment

Sister Tanner

Well, I think that the marriage commitment—and it is a commitment; I’m not sure that the world looks at it as a commitment necessarily—is a three-way commitment. Husbands and wives are committed to each other, but we’re also definitely committed to our Father in Heaven. And I like to think of charity, the pure love of Christ, in this marriage relationship. As we have this charity for one another, it not only draws us to each other, but it draws us closer to our Father in Heaven and therefore closer to each other in the marriage relationship.

Elder Holland

In terms of that little triangle you just drew for us with your hands, we have our special emphasis on really trying to bring heaven into the home, trying to bring God into a marriage. Any counsel for brothers and sisters out there, younger or older, who are still trying to do that? Any feeling?

Sister Lant

What comes to my mind is that when we talk about this eternal family, we’re not talking about a perfect family; we’re talking about a family that’s trying to become perfect eventually and get back to our Father in Heaven. And so then when you bring into that context this idea of a triangle, with our Father in Heaven and the Spirit with us, helping us work through the challenges of life, to me that is what a perfect family in this life is. It’s not one without challenges, but one that has challenges and is working toward solving them with the help of our Father in Heaven.

Sister Beck

I’d like to say something about the women out there who’ve been abandoned for one reason or another—left alone by a husband—and about our widowed women. We have many women out there who in perfect faith and faithfulness signed up for the whole plan at the time they were sealed, and now they find themselves alone. I know of many of these faithful women who’ve said, “All right. I signed up for the plan, and I’m not going to let it go just because I’m alone now. I still will have family prayer. I still will have family scripture study.

Family home evening will happen. We will educate this family. We will take care of the needs of this family under the plan of the Lord.” I salute and honor those brave women who do that. They don’t abandon the plan because they are alone. It’s harder work if you’re alone, but you can still do it.

Elder Oaks

The Lord didn’t tell us it would be easy, but He has assured us it would be possible.

The Centrality of the Family

Sister Beck

We asked why the family is central to the Creator’s plan. How do we know that? We know from revelations to the prophets that we lived in heaven before we were born, that we participated in a great conflict in the premortal world for the privilege of being part of an eternal family.

There is an eternal family unit, and this is the whole plan. And I find it very comforting that one of the first teachings that Joseph Smith received was about the whole plan and the family being central to that plan. Then everything else we have fits into that.

Elder Holland

There might be wards and stakes in heaven—I don’t know anything about them—and there may well be some other organization that we don’t know much about. What we do know will exist in heaven is families. And most of anything that has been revealed about afterlife and our eternal life, our celestial life, focuses on family organization, and thus the high principles of the temple, the covenants we make there.

We hope this helps the membership of the Church and those who are not members of the Church realize why we talk about this so much.

Elder Oaks

So much of what we concentrate on in mortality—power, prominence, property, prestige—are things that we don’t have any evidence will make any difference in the next life. But family will.

Unity and Unselfishness in Marriage

Elder Holland

We’re going to move into a discussion about family, about children and bearing them and rearing them and loving them and helping them be all that they need to be, but before we do, what about the personal things of marriage?

How do we work on marriage so it provides the environment that we will eventually want children to be born into and raised in?

Sister Lant

You ask how we get to the point where we’re ready to have a family and to bring children into the world. There has to be that spiritual foundation, that unity of goals and beliefs between a husband and wife about what they want to have in their home and in their family to make it successful.

Sister Beck

One of the simplest instructions on how to do this, I think, comes in Genesis, chapter 2, where the Lord says that a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one (see Genesis 2:24). That’s three assignments that a couple has right at the beginning: they leave where they were, they cleave together, and they become one. And if they work on those three principles, then they start to develop that relationship with the Lord.

Elder Oaks

I like to tell a young couple who are being married that they, in the marriage relationship, ought to look first to one another, as they do across the altar during their marriage—not first to their parents, not first to their siblings, not first to their friends, but in solving all of their problems, they should look first to one another, because the unity between them under the presiding, loving authority of a Heavenly Father in that triangle you spoke of earlier is what will get them over the inevitable problems of marriage.

Sister Tanner

I like to think again about this beginning story, this very first love story of Adam and Eve. Adam was created, and the Lord gave him everything, this beautiful world. He created flowers and beasts and this wonderful garden to be in, but he couldn’t progress. Man could not progress until he had a help meet for him, a person who was suited for him in every way, in emotional ways, in spiritual ways, in physical ways.

And I think that tells us about the kind of companionship a good marriage should have, that we need to be suited for one another. We need to think about what it is we can do to help that companionship progress. We have basic, innate qualities and missions in our marriage, but we also need to get outside of ourselves and be unselfish in that companionship.

Elder Holland

I’ve heard President Hinckley say that selfishness may be the single biggest challenge in a marriage.2 Any counsel for the Church about how to keep working on this and say, “How has her day been?” rather than just “How has mine been?”

Sister Lant

You know, there’s so much talk in today’s world about “are my needs being met?” You hear that so much.

Elder Holland

Yes, needs is a very big word.

Sister Lant

Yes, “my needs aren’t being met.” And I think if we could just get to the point where we are thinking about someone else’s needs, our needs are met. That’s the best way to get our needs met, if we are looking to take care of somebody else.

Sister Tanner

I grew up in a home where there was a very good marriage, but I remember my mother saying over and over to me, “This is work; to have a good marriage is hard work.” She wasn’t saying that they didn’t have a good marriage, but she meant that you never let a day go by without thinking about blessing the partner in your marriage and working on this and thinking about his or her needs.

Choosing a Spouse

Sister Beck

Oftentimes we hear young adults saying, “I’m looking for my soul mate.” And they put off being married because they think there’s one perfect match and a soul mate who then will be their best friend forever. What really should they be looking for if they’re interested in seeking after the Lord’s blessings and forming an eternal family? How do they do that?

Elder Oaks

I’m always doubtful when I hear that someone’s waiting for the person that was predestined for them in heaven. There may be such cases. But I think most of us are looking for someone we love, whom we can stand together with and go forward with, who has same ideals and the same principles to make an eternal family. I think the idea that you’re waiting until something hits you on the head as if to say “this is it” just postpones marriage and sometimes prevents it altogether.

Elder Holland

I think we’ve all heard comments such as “Well, I need to get through school before I get married” or “I need to get a job” or “I need a little money in the bank” or “We’re going to need a car.” We start to hear, increasingly in society, those kinds of stipulations. We want all of this in place.

I have loved a very homely little definition of love that James Thurber gave many, many years ago. He said, “Love is what you go through together.”3

To you single adults out there—you shouldn’t miss the ties that bind and the experiences that link us together in our youth and in our hardship and in our sacrifice as well as in senior years when maybe you’ve got a little more money.

Elder Oaks

Remember there’s a Heavenly Father there, and when we do what He has asked us to do, He will bless us. Let’s not deny Him the opportunity to fulfill His promises by taking it all upon us as if we had to do it all by ourselves.

Sister Lant

At the same time, we want to make sure that we don’t encourage the young people to settle for substandard—and I’m talking about standards of the Church. They should not settle by marrying someone who will not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the gospel and serving the Lord.

Don’t Live in Fear

Sister Tanner

I think being married, having families, being faithful, sacrificing for the gospel is all joyful. It really brings us true joy in our lives. And I think we need to emphasize that. This is a great blessing to us.

Elder Holland

With all that’s happening around us, internationally and otherwise, I think there’s a lot of fear. I hear a lot of fear among young single adults and teenagers wondering whether there’s going to be a future. “Will I live long enough to have a marriage?”

Listen, it’s always been tough. There has never been a time in the history of the world when there weren’t problems, when there weren’t things to be fearful about. That’s why we have the gospel. We can’t live in fear—not in this Church—that somehow things aren’t going to work out or that there’s too much that’s ominous out there that’s going to strike. That can be personal fear or collective fear for civilization. We just need to live the gospel and summon our faith and get answers to our prayers and go forward. And that’s the way it’s always been done.

Elder Oaks

If I can paraphrase a scripture, “Perfect love [of the Lord] casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18; see also Moroni 8:16).

Equal Partners

Elder Oaks

Let me ask a question that relates to this. I’ve heard some young people contemplating marriage and in their courtship say, “If we could just make a list of the things you’ll do and the things that I’ll do, then under the terms of that list and this compact, we’ll have a happy marriage.” How about that?

Sister Beck

It’s not a list. The list changes. It ebbs and flows every day.

Sister Tanner

There’s a wonderful quote from John Milton, an author, in Paradise Lost. Adam is talking about Eve, and he praises her and says, “Those thousand decencies that daily flow from all her words and actions, mixt with Love.”4 I think about that a lot. If we could have companionships that were like that, where we think over and over and over about what we can do—

Sister Lant

To help. You know there has to be a division of labor to some extent in a marriage, because you can’t do it all by yourself. But it has occurred to me—well, it’s evident—that the division of labor for young couples today is different than it was when I was first married. I watch the young couples in my family—my children and their spouses—and the way they do things in their family. It’s different than we did. They still get the job done. They work together in a different way. And in many ways it’s better than the way we did it. The point is, though, that it’s individual. Each couple has to work out how they will do things.

Elder Holland

You’re taking me back to the proclamation, which speaks of being equal partners and that we don’t just say, “You’re going to be the only nurturer, and I’m going to be the only one that’s concerned about the money and whatever.” There will be ebbing and flowing. There’s a balance and components, but we’ve got to be in this together. We’ve got to share in this.

It seems to me that’s exactly what the proclamation said.

Another line from the proclamation is, “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That says to me, “I’d better address my flaws before I spend a lot of time worrying about everybody else’s flaws in the family.”

Elder Oaks

I think that’s simply a manifestation of what Jesus taught when He said don’t try to cast the mote out of another’s eye until you’ve checked the beam in your own (see Matthew 7:3–5; Luke 6:41–42; 3 Nephi 14:3–5).

Latter-day Saint Culture

Sister Beck

I can think of an example of some friends of mine who were converts to the Church, and in their culture, in their family, there was not this unity and Christlike example. It wasn’t part of their heritage. But they had joined the Church and embraced the teachings of the Savior, and they said when they were married, “What will the culture of our family be like? What culture will we have?” And they determined very carefully, “We will have a Latter-day Saint culture.” They studied the scriptures; they studied the doctrines, asking, “What should our family look like in order to conform to what we know to be true?” And they built their home on those Christlike principles that you mentioned. What did the Savior teach? How do we treat each other? Good manners, kindness, respect.

And now over many years, you’ve seen that family emerge. They don’t have the culture of their country. They have a gospel culture in their home.

Elder Oaks

And that is a far better foundation for a marriage—a Latter-day Saint culture—than a set of job lists.

Sister Lant

We have told our children through the years as they get married that it’s not about who’s right; it’s about what’s right. Each of them brings traditions from the families that they come from, and you would hope that as they bring those together, they would look at what’s right—looking at the gospel principles to determine that—and then they are much better than either of their families were. Their family will be stronger; it will be better.

Bearing Children in Faith

Elder Holland

Sister Tanner, you mentioned Adam and Eve. I have been so grateful that we have the second chapter of 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, which tells us more about the decision Adam and Eve made than anyone else in the world has ever been able to know.

And as I read 2 Nephi 2, it is crystal clear there would not have been children born to Adam and Eve in the garden (see verse 23). I think most of the world does not know that. With us it’s a very fundamental doctrinal point, again underscoring the idea of the eternal plan, the centrality of the family, the point all of you have made about the plan.

Sister Tanner

I feel that we are so blessed in the Church to have the proclamation on the family. I think we can look to this as almost scriptural because it comes to us from the living prophets and apostles. And it does state there that the commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth as husband and wife remains in force.

I remember when I was a young single adult and in my early married years that I heard that preached over the pulpit by apostles and prophets, and I was grateful for that continued counsel. I remember hearing them preach that we were to get married, to have children, and to get an education, sort of all simultaneously, as impossible as it sounds. And I think that maybe it does seem sort of impossible and that we have people who question and wonder about that.

As I’ve thought about that commandment remaining in force, I really believe that it’s correct, and I believe that it requires of us great faith and great courage and often great sacrifice. I think it requires us to be in tune with the Lord to receive personal revelation, and I think it requires a pure heart so that we are not judgmental of other people who are exercising their faith and having their own personal revelation in regard to that commandment.

Elder Oaks

I think what Sister Tanner has just said is true and immensely important. Thank you for that statement. We’re in danger today, it seems to me, of our members of the Church looking to worldly priorities in their decisions about childbearing. Instead of making those decisions in faith on the Lord’s promises and in reliance upon what we know of the great plan of happiness and the purpose of life, they look to other sources—television or prominent ideological gurus in the world today or even the pressure of their neighbors—to make decisions that are fundamental and eternal and need to be made prayerfully before the Lord.

Sister Beck

I think it is an issue of faith. We know of many places around the world where there are housing shortages. How do you find even a place to live as a new married couple, let alone bear children, when you can’t find a place to live? I think that this is a matter of faith. We don’t have children because we have money, because we have means. We have children with faith.

That feeling and attitude of seeking for the Lord’s blessings under the plan, I believe, will create miracles in the lives of people. If you’re in a place where there’s a housing shortage, the way will be opened up. Just as paying tithing is a matter of faith, so is having children a matter of faith. You don’t pay tithing with money; you don’t have children with money.

Elder Oaks

We can add to that that we are teaching general principles because we are General Authorities and general officers.

Sister Tanner

I love the phrase “the way will be opened up if we walk by faith.” And I think that’s because of a personal experience. When we were first married, my husband’s father gave him a blessing, and he said, “Follow the principles of the gospel—do what you know that you should in this marriage and walk by faith—and the way will be opened up, ways that are unforeseen to you right now.”

I think walking by faith doesn’t mean to walk recklessly. We need to be very wise in our decisions and therefore work very hard and be willing to sacrifice and maybe go without. But that was a blessing in our lives that ways unforeseen to us were opened up. And I believe that’s a true principle for anyone who walks by faith.

Sister Lant

You talked about being willing to do the work that it takes. Having children is a lot of work. And we have to not be afraid of that, because it’s that very element of working hard and being willing to do whatever it takes that makes us who we are. It’s the sacrifice that makes us who we are. I want to bear my testimony of the joy that comes from having families, from having children, because there’s not only the commandment from the Lord to do it, but there are great promised blessings.

Elder Oaks

And let us be mindful of the fact that in many parts of the world where people are listening to this broadcast, the idea of having children has been rejected. Or the thought is that if you have one child that’s enough and a person is just foolish or unpatriotic to have more than one child. There are plenty of ideas out there in the world that work against the gospel plan. And as father Lehi said, “[There] must needs be an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). We can’t expect to be applauded every time we do something that we know is right. But God will bless you.

The Desires of the Heart

Sister Beck

I know of many couples who desire to have children and aren’t given that blessing. Their challenge is the challenge of not having children, and we need to be listening and supportive and encouraging toward them. And I also believe that the desire to have children in the single sisters and in these couples probably won’t go away if they’re righteous, because that is a God-given desire. It speaks to their very natures and the training they received in the heavens. So that longing will not go away. But the Lord will bless them.

Elder Oaks

And that longing will weigh in the final judgment. One of the most comforting passages in all of scripture for me is in the 137th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 9, where we’re told that the Lord will judge us according to our works and according to the desires of our hearts.

The Family Comes First

Elder Holland

Let’s talk about the rearing of the children, what comes after we have fulfilled the commandment and invitation to bear children and to continue their eternal progress by giving them that mortal opportunity. Those are not unrelated, because it seems to me that the Lord’s commandment to us is not simply to bear children, it is to bear them with the idea that we will save them.

Elder Oaks

While we’re talking about this, what does it mean that the family comes first? We say that, and we believe it, but what does it mean that the family comes first?

I want to use your eyeglasses to use a metaphor from Neal Maxwell. He suggested on another subject that we write something on the inside of our glasses so that whenever we looked at any subject, we see that message. And we might say that when you put your spectacles on to look at decisions about how the family will use its time or decisions about how the ward will schedule its activities, we have written inside of our eyeglasses, “The family comes first.”

Elder Holland

I love—we all love—the line from Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We’ve only got so much time, but we all have the same amount. So I think if we work on priorities, we can make family first. I think we can do a better job.

Elder Oaks

And when we speak of family first, we have to think of ideas like family prayer and family home evening and family scripture study and making time and seeing that these things happen which have eternal consequences in the spiritual growth of our children. That’s a manifestation of “family comes first.”

Family Patterns

Elder Holland

I introduced the word pattern in those brief remarks as we started. Some of these things that we almost take for granted should not be taken for granted, like family scripture study, like family prayer, like family home evening—we tend to dash those off as if they were understood by everybody, but those ought to become part of a family pattern.

Sister Tanner

One hopeful thing about patterns is that even though we sense our imperfections in trying to establish these patterns, it’s quite remarkable and fulfilling for us as we see our children then carry on those patterns, even though we didn’t feel like we were totally perfect at it.

Elder Holland

Some of it got through.

Sister Tanner

On a personal note, my husband said at his father’s funeral that he had never learned anything at church that he had not already learned in his own home. I thought that was such a tribute to his parents—parents of a large family. He talks of how they would sometimes gather on the parents’ bed, and the father would pull down an old blind in the bedroom and draw on it the chart of the plan of salvation. He said, “We learned the plan of salvation sitting together on our father’s and mother’s bed. We didn’t really need some of the activities that the world promotes these days, because we’d go out in the back field and play ‘No Bears Are Out Tonight’ or other games together as a family.” So there were a lot of good things that this family did to utilize their family time to pull together, to teach, and to create memories.

Elder Oaks

I recall a rule we had in our family—every family has rules—that we would never have the television on when we were eating a meal, because we thought this time of gathering was a time for conversation: “What did you do today?” “What’s troubling you?” “How can we help?” That doesn’t take place if the news, however important, is blaring into the family mealtime. We couldn’t afford fast food, so we didn’t have any rules to resist that. But we had a rule of no television and much conversation, and we would all be home for dinner. We couldn’t all do it for breakfast—our circumstances were such—but we had one meal where we sat down together. That was very good for our family.

Sister Tanner

We had similar experiences. You’ve talked about conversation and binding yourselves together with each other in that conversation. Not only is it binding and informative, it’s fun. You can laugh together, and you can share tender experiences. We typically had our family prayer at breakfast time and at dinnertime, because we were together for those two meals.

But we kind of laughed that our family prayer often introduced the topics of conversation for the mealtime. Sometimes my husband would pray for a grandmother who would be having an operation, and the children weren’t aware of that. Or he’d pray for someone in the world who was suffering from an earthquake, and they hadn’t been aware of that. And then, as the meal unfolded, we had these wonderful binding topics to talk about.

Sister Beck

I was raised in a big family. My parents had a lot of children. And that means there were a lot of opinions and a lot of work to care for this family. But they used the tool of family home evening to really teach us. Every week we sang “Love at Home.” That was the opening hymn. And I remember as a teenager thinking it was really tiresome to sing that hymn every week.

Elder Oaks

Sometimes that hymn is sung through clenched teeth.

Elder Holland

And by assignment.

Sister Lant

Sometimes it’s the mother’s clenched teeth.

Sister Beck

It was more a belief than a practice. But every week, Dad would say, “Now we’ll sing our opening hymn, ‘Love at Home.’ ” And when I was about 14 or 15, in that age when you question everything, I asked my father, “Why do we have to sing this hymn every week? There are a lot of good hymns in the hymnbook we could sing.”

And he looked at me very sternly, and he said, “When you have learned lesson 1, I will teach you lesson 2.” And I don’t know what lesson 2 was; we didn’t ever get there, but I have to say that after the passage of many years, I look at my family, and we do love one another. We did, somehow, over the years, learn to love each other because that was lesson 1 my parents wanted to teach. They didn’t try to cover everything. They knew if they started with that, it would work.

I had a wonderful young mother approach me. She had four children under the age of six, and she said, “We are being faithful in trying to have our family scripture study every morning, but it’s just a disaster. Somebody’s always crying; they don’t pay attention.” And I said, “How long are you trying to do this?” She said, “Well, we set a goal to do 10 minutes every day.” And I said, “Well, with the audience you have, you’re probably about 8 minutes too long.” She had the pattern down, and she needed to adapt a little bit to the age of her audience. Maybe start with a picture of Adam and Eve and talk about the picture and not try to help a two-year-old read the scriptures. But she was faithful, and I loved her for that.

Not Judging Others

Sister Lant

Elder Holland, I wanted to just say a word about judging other people. We look at other people, and things are not always as they seem. We think it’s one way, but it isn’t always that way.

We had a large family, and my husband was the bishop when all the children were still very young. I would work all day Saturday and all morning Sunday to get them to church, and I had to get them there early or we just didn’t even get there. We would line the whole bench—the whole center bench was filled with our children on the second row back—and we would be there before the meeting started.

I remember one day a sister came up behind me and leaned over and said, “Sister Lant, if my kids were as good as yours and if it was as easy for me as it is for you, I would have a large family too.”

Well, I started to cry, and I cried clear through the whole meeting. And my husband kept looking at me like “What is wrong? What is wrong?” I was a mess. I completely had a come-apart. And it was because it wasn’t easy.

We tend to judge one another. We judge harshly. Or we judge unfairly as we look at others—

Elder Holland

Unkindly.

Sister Lant

—unkindly. And we don’t really know what one another’s situations are. We just have to love each other.

Elder Holland

And cling to the doctrine, just cling to these ideals—we’re going to climb this mountain the best way we know how, and that will sometimes be a little different for each family.

Working Together

Elder Oaks

There’s another aspect of that, and that is to challenge fathers to take the leadership. The family proclamation asks them to lead out. Fathers should call their families around them for family prayer. Fathers should make sure that family home evenings are held. Sometimes that’s best done by delegating to a mother the planning; she may be a lot better at it than the father. But the Lord holds the father responsible. That’s why we read in the family proclamation that “fathers are to preside.”
Fathers, rise up and perform your role.

Elder Holland

And that fits with our earlier comment too, that many forces in the world would take people out of the home. This is yet another example of our trying to bring people into the home, including and especially, we say again, fathers.

Sister Lant

The fathers preside, and the fathers call their families around them. But mothers have to facilitate that. They have to enable their families to gather like that and pave the way for it to be a good experience.

Sister Beck

When you’re together, when you know—right back to our beginning principle—the family is ordained of God and we’re in this together, then you of course plan together and see that it happens. You help it happen together.

Sister Lant

And children have to be willing. Teenagers have to be willing to respond.

Sister Beck

Well, sometimes they’re willing.

Elder Oaks

No small task.

Sister Lant

Do it anyway. Do it anyway.

The principles that we’ve talked about, all of these principles about what the family should be based on, all point us to the temple. I think that the temple is such a blessing in our lives, whether we have a family that has already gone to the temple, or whether we’re hoping for a family that will enter the temple. All of these principles of truth and these patterns of family life culminate in the blessings of the temple because that’s where we become eternal families.

Elder Ballard has said to us that “clearly, those . . . entrusted with precious children have been given a sacred, noble stewardship, for we are the ones that God has appointed to encircle today’s children with love and with the fire of faith and an understanding of who they are.”5 And that says it all for what we have to do as parents.

Extended Families

Elder Holland

Why don’t we just say a word about others who can help “families”—grandparents, aunts, uncles, someone who for a time does not have a complete family. We acknowledged in the introduction that not everybody is going to meet this profile, but we can all be committed to the ideal; we can all be committed to the doctrine. Any comments about how families, broadly defined, pitch in and take an interest?

Sister Lant

I would to hate to think as a mother that I had no help from anyone else. I am grateful for the good people who have had influence on my children. And there are many of them, from teachers, to neighbors, to friends, to extended relatives. There are many ways that people help my children. And I am grateful for that. It’s an added witness to the things that we’re trying to teach them. And sometimes you get to a point with one of your children where you cannot have the influence on them you would like to have, but someone else can.

I’ve had some of my children live in foreign countries. My youngest daughter has been living in Spain with her husband, and she had her first baby over in Spain. Of course she was a long distance from Grandma, and I was concerned about this and concerned about her, but these wonderful Saints there were her family. They were there for her, and they helped her, and they gathered around her and loved her and loved that baby. How grateful I was for them and for their caring and for their influence in her life.

Elder Oaks

Having been raised in a single-parent household after my father died shortly before my eighth birthday, I know firsthand what the influence of grandparents is, what the influence of aunts and uncles and cousins is. I have rejoiced to see the strength of extended families as I’ve traveled outside the United States.

I think in many parts of the world the structure of the extended family is stronger than it has become in North America. I would just encourage my fellow members in North America to make sure they’re reaching out, strengthening that extended family, and know that there are places in the world where that situation is functioning better than it is in North America.

Sister Beck

There’s also the ward family. As we’ve mentioned, in every ward you’re going to have a spectrum of experience and challenges. Some of those women will be able to have children; some will be married; some will be widowed; some won’t. In reality there are a few women who will be able to have children and have a lot of them. And in that ward family we should rally around and support them. It’s a challenge to have a large family. I would certainly hope that no member of the Church would approach another sister in the ward and say, “You’re crazy for having another child,” but rather celebrate her ability and her desire to have them and say, “I’m supporting you. Let me do all I can to encourage and help you in that.”

Elder Oaks

I’m glad you mentioned that because we do get reports that some Latter-day Saints criticize other Latter-day Saints for having children. I remember early in our marriage when my wife June was pregnant with our fifth child, a very active sister in our ward said to her, “What are you trying to do, populate the world all by yourself?” And I was proud of June when she came right back with a response: “I can’t think of anyone better to do it.”

Elder Holland

And we all acknowledge—Sister Tanner touched on it—that there are issues of health, there are issues that are not materialistic. We’re not talking about money or political correctness or deference to society, we’re talking about legitimate gospel-oriented things that we watch and measure. That is all the more reason not to judge. We teach, we encourage, we rally, we cheer; within the context of the gospel we encourage people to seek that destiny that is theirs.

Never Give Up

Sister Tanner

I think on the subject of rearing children that we will probably have people in our audience who are going to start feeling bad about themselves. I think the discrepancy between the ideal and the reality of everyday life sometimes seems very large to us as mothers and fathers. But I believe that being a mother and father is an eternal role, an eternal calling, if you will, and that with that calling, as with any calling, we are blessed with a mantel. We need that mantel, and we need that spirit with us as we rear our children. In fact, I think like Elisha, we need a double portion of that spirit as we rear our children. I believe that we’re blessed with that. These are Heavenly Father’s children, not just ours. They are His spirit children, and He will bless us with a double portion of that spirit.

Elder Oaks

And some are simply more difficult than others. There’s no such thing as treating all children equally in the parental attention or some of the basic decisions required. We might be equal in the division of property as we choose or don’t choose, but we sure can’t be equal in the division of time because the needs are different.

Sister Beck

I saw an example of the time division in my own home growing up. My oldest sister, the oldest of 10, lost her hearing when she was age two. There was no way for my mother to say, “I will give 10 minutes to this child and 10 minutes to the next one.” There is no doubt that daughter took the lion’s share of the time for quite a long time in the family.

I also think that the help and the power for a sealed eternal family comes from the temple. Much like a stake president is given keys and power and authority, and a bishop has keys and authority to run his ward and officiate there, parents in the temple are given that power to receive answers, to receive revelation to resolve what they need to resolve.

Elder Oaks

Part of that vision is to realize that God has given these, His children, the power of choice. And the time comes in their maturity when they have to make choices and be accountable for them.

It’s always so unfortunate when parents carry a burden of guilt throughout their adult lives for every decision their children have made. We never, never, never give up. And we’re responsible to teach correct principles and do all we can with love and persuasion and so on. All of these are priesthood principles for the exercise of family as well as Church authority. But in the last analysis, I say to my fellow adult parents and grandparents, keep praying, keep trying, but set down that large burden of guilt because people given the power of choice are going to make wrong choices. Sometimes the only way people can learn is to make a choice and see the consequence of it, and then we rely on the incredible power of Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And there are hardly any sins we can commit in mortality that can’t, on proper principles, be forgiven through the power of the Atonement of our Lord.

Creating a Nurturing Climate

Sister Lant

Have we said enough about really loving one another? We’ve used a lot of words about how we should teach our children and the things that we need to do in our homes, but I think we simply have to love one another. I’ve heard the statement that there’s nothing greater a father can do for his children than to love their mother. And it’s the same for each member of the family—to really look for ways to show and say and express that love.

Elder Holland

It seems to be so very much in the Church that we’re trying to get people in the home, including Father. There’s an invitation to Father and Mother to both be in the home as much as possible.
My wife’s father passed away not long ago, and she has grieved the way a daughter grieves over the loss of a father. I was comforting her, and she said, “But he loved me so much. He sang to me. He put me to bed. He tucked me in.” She said, “I can hardly remember a night that he did not tuck me in bed and sing to me.” I’m making a point about dads, fathers, being in the home. And I pay tribute to my boys, who do better than I ever did about changing diapers and taking the children out during church.

Sister Lant

I think there’s a great influence in the world that is trying to pull us not only out of the home, but away from those things that really matter. As I look at what gets us off track in families, sometimes it’s having too much, and sometimes it’s having too little. But it all has to do with material things. I think we really need to take a careful look at our lives and priorities­—Are we too busy? Are we trying to do too much?—and look at the things that really are going to make a difference in the lives of our children and make sure that it’s the spiritual things that we’re not excluding.

Sister Beck

I don’t think it takes a lot of extra activity or time to follow the Lord’s plan. It can be done in simple ways. I think one of the most important concepts for parents to grasp about a home is to create a climate. Often we say it’s tasks or we measure things by achievements or things or lists. But we can think of a climate where something can grow. The word nurture means to help something grow. Something can’t grow where it’s too dry or too cold or the ground is too hard. The job of parents in rearing children is to keep that climate where things can grow with the Spirit, where there’s faith and hope and charity.

I saw a wonderful mother in Mexico in a very humble home. She had a little courtyard outside her front door, and she had painted a garden on the wall. She didn’t have any ground to grow a garden in. She had a wall, so she painted a garden, with flowers and trees and a fountain. She wanted to create a climate for growth for her family. What a beautiful thought she had to make a place to give her family that vision.

Elder Oaks

My mother used to love quoting the words of Pearl Buck, who said, “I love my children with all my heart, but I can’t love them with all my time.”6 And so she was very careful in the limited time that she had available after being the breadwinner for the family. She was very careful with what we did in the scarce time that we were privileged to be together. She liked us to work on projects together. I look back on that with greater affection than I experienced at the time. It seemed like mother was always organizing us to do some project to clear out the garage. But I look back on it, and I realize that she was pursuing a very important parenting function in getting the children to work together and with their parents.

It’s harder and harder to do that in some urban societies that many live in. People in underdeveloped parts of the world where husband and wife and children work together in the rice fields don’t have that same kind of problem. But the principle works throughout, and it’s very, very important for us.

Principles of Homemaking

Sister Lant

You speak of principles. I think that’s what we really have to turn to in all of this discussion because families and family situations are different all over the world. But the principles of work and of love and of unselfishness and of forgiveness and of service, those basic principles of the gospel is where we have to go to know how to rear our children, to know how to build our relationships.

Elder Oaks

I think the family proclamation gives us some principles that we need to refer to:

“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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”—It doesn’t say exclusively.—“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

There may be a circumstance where the mother needs to be the breadwinner. I was raised in such a home. The health of the father may prevent him from performing a function that is identified as his responsibility. But under the principle of equal partners solving the problems, these can be worked out individually with the inspiration of heaven.

Sister Tanner

I think as we talk about making a home, we need certain principles, we need certain skills, and the lack of homemaking skills—and I don’t just mean baking bread—has created, I think, an emotional homelessness that has some of the very same byproducts as street homelessness. People who do not have a place to go that has the Spirit, that has the emotional stability, that has the principles that we’ve been talking about, have a lot of the same problems of despair, of turning to drugs or immorality, that street homeless people have. And we have an opportunity, mothers and fathers working together, to create an environment, to be homemakers, to create an environment that will make a home. Home is not just a place; it’s a feeling, and it’s a spirit.

Elder Oaks

I’m glad you speak of homemaking because homemaking is a word of disparagement in the eyes of some, and it should not be. But we may need to define it. Homemaking is not just baking bread or cleaning a house. Homemaking is to make the environment necessary to nurture our children toward eternal life, which is our responsibility as parents. And that homemaking is as much for fathers as it is for mothers.

Sister Lant

And that home, then, needs to be the safe place, the place where all the members of the family can come and know that they’re loved and that they are safe from the things of the world and that they’re OK.

Elder Oaks

On the subject of delegation, there are probably a lot of housekeeping tasks that can be delegated, but there aren’t any homemaking tasks that can be delegated. We don’t delegate conducting a family home evening. We’re not going to delegate family prayer. We’re not going to delegate the love of a mother and a father for the children or that individual time that’s so essential for growth. Let’s make a distinction between housekeeping and homemaking.

Sister Lant

We can’t delegate those responsibilities, but we can share them.

Elder Oaks

Yes, we can.

Elder Holland

What struck me when Elder Oaks said you can’t delegate is you can’t delegate it into the community, you can’t delegate it to the chamber of commerce—

Elder Oaks

Even to the Church.

Elder Holland

Or to the Church. That’s my point. Let’s talk about that. Let’s lead into the idea of how the Church is to help the family and bless the family. There are some things that simply cannot and should not, probably, be done by the Church or anyone else when it really is a family matter.

Scheduling Activities

Elder Holland

What counsel do we have collectively for Church leaders to help them strike the balance helping families and scheduling and calendaring? Time is an issue out there in the wards and stakes of the Church.

Elder Oaks, how do we look at calendaring?

Elder Oaks

Let me speak to bishops and stake presidents, who preside over ward councils and stake councils. Let’s have parental time on agendas as we make up schedules, not just fitting every conceivable meeting and activity into the Church calendar without regard to what that does to families.

Elder Holland

We want to bless individuals, but we’ve got to protect the family as a unit.

Sister Beck

Years ago there was a little rule I made for myself that I think is pretty applicable to everyone. A good reason to have a ward activity or a stake activity is because we need it and it will strengthen our families and individuals. A bad reason to have an activity is because it’s a tradition or there’s a certain holiday we have to celebrate. When we talk about gospel patterns, we know the needs. Let’s plan the activities around those needs, and if something was a wonderful activity last year, it doesn’t mean we need to build it into a tradition.

Elder Oaks

And we can say that it’s best when Church schedules are considerate of family circumstances, so that the total burden on families on weeknights and weekends is not excessive and doesn’t just sweep away the possible times for a family to be together.

We need to add to that the caution that if we make more family time available, parents have to take more responsibility in making sure that it doesn’t just increase sports, television viewing, individual athletic activities, or participation in many, very good community activities for children. We are not trying to hobble ourselves in competing with other activities. We are trying to discipline the use of Church meetings and Church activities in favor of the family. And the family has got to fill that vacuum instead of inviting others in to fill it.

Sister Lant

You know, that puts responsibility back on the family, doesn’t it?

Elder Oaks

It does.

Ward and Family Councils

Sister Beck

When a ward council meets together or a presidency meets together, oftentimes they discuss, “How can we get people to support us in our organization?” or “We had a lot of people there; we had a lot of support.” And that’s really backward. When a ward council meets or a presidency meets, if they would begin by saying, “How can we support the family?” Then what we do is an outgrowth of things that will support the family and not the other way around; I think we could all turn that lens backward.

Elder Oaks

And that’s a great subject for ward councils, where a group like we have with us here today gets together and each has their own perspective. The bishop is the decision maker, but he hears from all of the groups and he can try to set the level of activity and adjust the schedules to deal with the principles we’ve talked about.

Elder Holland

I’d like to think that it might be valuable right in the middle of this discussion to pause and say to the Church audience that, although we didn’t necessarily set out to do it, we are modeling here what we would like to happen among men and women in the Church.

Elder Oaks

In every culture.

Elder Holland

In every culture. This is the way that ward councils ought to talk. I’d like to think that this is the way that husbands and wives would talk. We’re respectful; we’re interested; people have ideas; we’re sharing. And in some of the cultures—this is a worldwide broadcast—this will run counter to tradition and history and the style of some people. But gospel culture always has to prevail. And if it hasn’t been the local habit or the local tradition to listen to the sisters or to have the marvelous respect these sisters have shown to priesthood—all of this, we hope, will convey to the Church the need to hear each other, love each other, talk together, get the best ideas, pray for guidance, and have better families and a better Church as a result. That shouldn’t be the least of the issues conveyed in our broadcast here tonight.

Matching Needs and Resources

Elder Oaks

Elder L. Tom Perry gave us a marvelous principle in the worldwide leadership training meeting of January 2003. I want to read a few of the words that he gave, just by way of reemphasizing them. They’re more important today than they were five years ago when he first stated them. He said:

“The secret in building a branch or a district, a ward or a stake is to know your members, their abilities, and their needs, and build your program based on the leadership available and the needs of your members. . . . In all you do, be aware that bigger is not necessarily better. Grow only as fast as the size and maturity of your unit permit. Preserve the strength of your members.”7

It’s a liberating principle.

Sister Lant

It is. And I think how that comes down, then, to an auxiliary leader, a Primary leader in a ward. Ofttimes you call that Primary leader, and she looks at the Primary program, and she thinks, “OK, how am I going to do all of these things?” And she works at doing those things, and then she looks for what else she can do.

We’ve got to put the family focus on all of the work that we’re called to do, because we don’t have to do more. Sometimes we can take that program, look at the needs of our members, and do less.

Elder Holland

It reminded me that Elder Scott said sometimes to magnify your calling is to do less, not more.8 You’ve brought more focus to it, you’ve exercised better judgment. You’ve increased the quality, but the sheer mass may be smaller, not greater. That’s an equally liberating thought, I think—not to shirk, not to be a slacker, but to really, seriously look at the big picture, including the big picture of the family, and maybe sometimes do less.

Sister Lant

And so many times these auxiliary leaders are so capable, they can do so much, that we get carried away. We have to watch ourselves not to do that, to focus on the people not the program.

Wisdom and Good Judgment

Sister Tanner

I appreciate priesthood leaders who look at family situations before they make calls. I know calls are inspired, but they also require wisdom and judgment on the part of priesthood leaders.

Elder Oaks

Units that are short on workers have a limited number of active members, and they should be very careful not to just fill up the callings by using the same 10 people in the ward and giving them all four or five different callings. That’s not the way to have a strong family. It’s not the way to have a strong ward. An inspired priesthood leader ought to start off with a proposition that busy parents ought not to have multiple callings.

The program may have to be pared back somewhat to meet the requirements of the principle Elder Perry outlined in that worldwide leadership training broadcast of January 2003.

Elder Holland

And we’ll all acknowledge—everyone at this table can acknowledge—that sacrifice is still one of those principles in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We sacrifice for each other across family ties. You take that very far, and you’re out to the branch and the ward and the stake. We’ve all been called to do things that stretched us and pushed us, and we had to make some judgments about “What do we do to protect our family?” and “What do we do to protect the Church?” “How do we make sure that the Church flourishes as well as the family?”

We’ve got to have the wisdom and the judgment to be able to kind of do it all. It’s just that we can’t do it all at once, and we sometimes don’t need to do all the things we’ve done. But the essential things I believe we’ll be blessed to do.

Sister Beck

I remember the wonderful teaching of Elder Ballard when he taught us to be wise. “O be wise,” he said, “in choosing these things.”9 The teaching of sacrifice is important. Some of the beginning stirrings of my testimony, if I go back to when I first started to say, “This is a wonderful church,” were watching my parents serve and struggle in their callings and learn. That taught me some things. And I’ve been stretched and drawn to the Lord through my service. I would never want to say that it’s either family or service. It has to be a marriage and a unity of what we commit to the Lord to help build His kingdom and what we’ve committed to build a family. They go together. It’s not one or the other.

The Joy of the Sabbath

Elder Holland

Could I make a plea to our group and to the larger Church that we do everything possible to reclaim the joy of the Sabbath. I don’t know that we could do more to enhance family unity in the Church than to enjoy Sunday fully. And we do enjoy it. I enjoy it. As busy as I am, I live for Sunday. But the early scriptural declarations, I’m thinking particularly clear back into the Old Testament, up to and including our own Doctrine and Covenants pronouncements, have been about the joy of the Sabbath, the joy of worship, and the delight of the Sabbath. Surely we can do better at having a Sabbath together. We’re going to have to lighten up, in some cases, on these multiple assignments in order that an equally important aspect of gospel living can happen in the home.

Sister Beck

Well, you’re speaking too about the Sabbath day and how to enhance that experience. I think oftentimes the busyness and the tasks we throw into the Sabbath to take care of Church work takes us away from the real reason why we go to church. We go to renew covenants. And if families would prepare for that and focus on that in their Sabbath experiences, start with that, we, I think, would go a long way in blessing our families. We go to partake of the sacrament, and the rest is an add-on to that. That’s not a secondary experience; it’s the primary reason we go.

Sometimes I think in our busyness our children lose that message because of our rush. And that should be the first thing we teach them.

“Come and Dine”

Elder Holland

In the true spirit of homemaking, in the best and highest sense of that word, I hope we can again sit down at a common dinner table as a family. I think almost any sociologist who has no affiliation with the Church at all would say, and they do say, that perhaps nothing is as unifying in the course of a family’s week as to eat together.

Sister Beck

A scriptural example that is one of my favorites, is in the last chapter of the Gospel of John, where the Savior at the Sea of Galilee gathered His disciples. He had a fire there and coals and fish, and He said, “Come and dine.” Now, that describes quite a bit of preparation. A meal had been prepared—a family meal, you could say—and He invited them to come and dine, not just run in and eat, but come and dine. And then the scripture says, “When they had dined,”  He then began to teach them that wonderful teaching about feeding His sheep (see John 21:9–15). There is something about eating together and mellowing out and having that feeling there. What would His teaching have looked like if He hadn’t prepared the place to teach it?

He created the setting for that marvelous teaching, and it was a mealtime. And I think that wasn’t accidental.

Clinging to the Doctrine

Elder Oaks

In all that we have discussed, I think it is fundamental for us to avoid taking the world’s models as our guides for parenting and marriage and all of those things that have eternal importance. I’m mindful of the counsel the Apostle Paul gave to the Corinthians. This is recorded in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6. He was speaking to those who had the gospel, and he said, “[Don’t be] unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). He’s telling us that we cannot afford to stand side by side, yoked with the world, when we are trying to make these fundamental eternal decisions.

Elder Holland

And it seems to me that if we’ll cling to the doctrine of the Church—again I keep coming back to our idea that we started this conversation around, the idea of a plan and counsel that our Father in Heaven gave us before we ever came here—if we can cling to the doctrine, we’ll get through, we’ll have answers to our prayers, and we’ll stay founded on true principles.

I’ve often thought, and I’ve said to my own children, that those parents who kept going past Chimney Rock and past Martin’s Cove (and sometimes didn’t get farther than that) and those little graves that are dotted all across the historic landscape of this Church—they didn’t do that for a program, they didn’t do it for a social, they did it because the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ was in their soul, it was in the marrow of their bones. That’s the only way those mothers could bury that baby in a breadbox and move on and say, “The promised land is out there somewhere. We’re going to make it to the valley.”

Well, that’s because of covenants and doctrine and faith and revelation and spirit. If we can keep that in our families and in the Church, maybe a lot of other things start to take care of themselves. Maybe a lot of other things sort of fall off the wagon. I’m told those handcarts could only take so much. They had to choose what they took. And maybe the 21st century will drive us to decide, “What can we put on this handcart?” It’s the substance of our soul; it’s the stuff right down in the marrow of our bones. We’ll have blessed family and Church if we can cling to the revelations.

Elder Oaks

Elder Holland, I think that is a good note to end on.

Elder Holland

Elder Oaks, Sister Beck, Sister Lant, Sister Tanner, on behalf of this entire Church, thank you. Thank you for your time, your love, your service, your own sacrifice, and the convictions you have in your soul about family life and family love in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you. And brothers and sisters, thanks to all of you.

Notes

1.   “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
2.   Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 64; or Ensign, May 2003, 59; and Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 94; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69.
3.   See “Thurber,” Life, Mar. 14, 1960, 108.
4.   Book 8, lines 601–02.
5.   M. Russell Ballard, “Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 60.
6.   See “At Home in the World,” Marriage and Family Living, Feb. 1942, 2.
7.   “Basic Unit Program,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003, 9.
8.   See Richard G. Scott, “The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2004, 7.
9.   See M. Russell Ballard, in Conference Report, Oct. 2006, 16–19; or Ensign, Nov. 2006, 17–20.