[Seriously, this all came together in about three hours! One of the fastest lessons I’ve ever prepared!]
I was so excited to get the new list of conference talks for the next six months. I don’t know about you, but when I listen to conference in April and October, I listen with the added interest of wondering if the Ward Council will choose them for me to teach. When I was on the Ward Council, I didn’t really give much attention to what talks we chose, but, now, I sure do have my favorites and I’m always happy when one of my favorite talks ends up on the list.
And this lesson is based on a talk that I have heard at least four times in the last two months. I’ve heard it in our own ward, in Mikelle’s ward, in Scott’s ward and Sister Isom used parts of it in her Gospel Doctrine lesson a while ago. So, I hope that it is one of your favorites, too.
First, I had to research Elder Maynes. I didn’t recognize his name but found out that he has been a member of the 70 for the past 14 years. His numerous years of Church service also include a full-time mission in Uruguay/Paraguay and president of the Mexico Monterrey Mission (1989-1992).
Currently he is serving as the Executive Director of the Family History Department. He also served as an Assistant Executive Director of both the Priesthood Department and the Missionary Department. And he has served as president of the Philippines and South America West Areas. [Pretty busy guy.]
He talks about his mission. He says he learned very early as a young missionary in Uruguay and Paraguay, that one of the great attractions to those seeking to know more about The Church was their interest in our doctrine regarding the family. In fact, since the Restoration of the gospel, truth-seeking investigators have been drawn to the doctrine that families can be together forever.
I’ve heard many times that this is an especially important concept for anyone who has lost a loved family member and wants to know more about our belief that we can be with them again in the eternities. And how many times have you heard, after someone has passed away, something like: “Thank goodness for the Gospel. It puts everything into perspective and heals our heartache just knowing we will be able to see our loved one again.”
Of course this shouldn’t surprise any of us. We know that the beliefs and teachings of an ‘eternal family’ are pretty unique to our religion. In fact you can actually identify total strangers in, say, Quilted Bear, as being LDS just by watching which crafts they put in their basket. I know that someone buying a “Families are Forever” craft is likely to be LDS. Of course, I have never seen a hot-selling craft with the words “Families are Temporary.” Or “Family: for this Life Only.” Or “Gee, Till Death do Us Part.”
Um, not the greatest selling point.
We know that the principle of eternal families is an essential element in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. And we also recognize that we have a heavenly family, as well as an earthly family. It is a fundamental part of that plan. Being offspring of a loving Heavenly Father is such a basic principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ that even our children proclaim its truth as they sing the Primary song “I Am a Child of God.”
When I was in the Primary presidency the words to this simple song could take me straight to my knees. I would be brought to tears each time I heard little 3- and 4-year olds singing this song.
+ + + + + + + Song + + + + + + +
Elder Maynes says that when we recognize the truth that we have a heavenly family we are better able to understand and value the eternal nature of our earthly families. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches this so clearly. Listen to the words of this one verse that explains that the family is central to the order of heaven: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory.” [130:2]
I think most of us have come to realize that anything having the potential to bring us eternal glory is going to be on the “To Do List” of Satan. Or maybe I should rephrase that. The “To UN-DO” List of Satan. Elder Maynes says, “Understanding the eternal nature of the family is a critical element in understanding Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. The adversary, on the other hand, wants to do everything in his power to destroy Heavenly Father’s plan. In his attempt to defeat God’s plan, he is leading an unprecedented attack on the institution of the family. We see it all around us every day. Some of the more powerful weapons he uses in his attack are selfishness, greed, and pornography.
Definitely. [And I could add more . . .]
Our eternal happiness is not one of Satan’s objectives. He knows that an essential key to making men and women miserable [like himself] is to deprive them of family relationships that have eternal potential. Because Satan understands true happiness in this life and in the eternities is found in the form of family, he does everything in his power to destroy it.
Every couple of days this very subject comes up at work. Becky Davidson and Sue Erickson and I talk all the time about how we see, first hand, the tearing apart of families! We have a front-row seat of Satan’s objectives. We witness close-up and personal how children’s lives have been ruined by their parents’ alcohol and drug use, their selfishness and of course, divorce. I hear kids talk about their families or see a paper they have written about their reality. And it’s a pretty sad story. I can’t help but imagine their life being so much different if their parents lived by these inspired words: “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Book of Mormon, Alma teaches about God’s plan for his children. After learning about it and living it, himself, he came to the logical conclusion that God’s plan is one of happiness. He pleaded with his son, Corianton, to turn back to the Lord and live so that he could receive the blessings of a loving Heavenly Father. I know God’s plan is really the only way to happiness. I speak from personal experience on this, believe me. I have tried a variety of ways to find “happiness” and it wasn’t until I came back to the gospel — trying to live the way Heavenly Father wants me to — that I began to understand these truths.
This happiness spoken of by Alma and more recently by the First Presidency will most surely be found in the home with family. And it will be found in abundance if we do everything in our power to establish a Christ-centered home. That’s an amazing promise! How would you like to have an abundance of happiness in your home?!?
As you can imagine, Elder Maynes has personal information about what works to establish a Christ-Centered Home. He says:
Sister Maynes and I learned some important principles as we began the process of establishing a Christ-centered home early in our marriage. We started by following the counsel of our Church leaders. We brought our children together and held weekly family home evenings as well as daily prayer and scripture study. Surprise! It was not always easy, convenient, or successful, but over time these simple gatherings became treasured family traditions.
We learned that our children might not remember everything about the family home evening lesson later in the week, but they would remember that we held it. We learned that later in the day at school they would probably not remember the exact words of the scriptures or the prayer, but they would remember that we did read scriptures and we did have prayer. Sisters, there is great power and protection for us and our youth in establishing celestial traditions in the home.
These words from Elder Maynes brings to mind the conference talk Elder Bednar gave in the October, 2009 Conference. He said,
“As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do. We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours. Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.
Today, if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.
Sister Bednar and I thought helping our sons understand the content of a particular lesson or a specific scripture was the ultimate outcome. But such a result does not occur each time we study or pray or learn together. The consistency of our intent and work was perhaps the greatest lesson—a lesson we did not fully appreciate at the time.”
That was one of my favorite conference talks!
Learning, teaching, and practicing the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ help create a culture where the Spirit can dwell. Can you even imagine? We are promised that the Spirit can dwell in our very homes! And when we try every single day to concentrate on things that make our homes more Christ-centered, we’ll be able to weed out the things that detract from a spiritual home. If we ask the Lord, specifically, in our prayers to help us to find ways to attract and keep the Spirit’s influence in our homes, I know He will help us to make better choices for our home and for our family. It is, after all, His work and glory! Through establishing celestial traditions in our homes, we will be able to overcome the false traditions of the world and learn to put the teachings of the Lord first.
The responsibility for establishing a Christ-centered home lies with both parents and children. But parents are responsible to teach their children in love and righteousness. Parents will be held accountable before the Lord in how they perform their sacred responsibilities. Parents teach their children with words and through their example.
Elder Maynes quoted a poem, which has become quite famous in the last couple of months. It really does emphasize the truth and importance of each parent’s role in his gospel plan, and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
’Twas a sheep not a lamb
That strayed away in the parable Jesus told,
A grown-up sheep that strayed away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.
And why for the sheep should we seek
And earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger when sheep go wrong:
They lead the lambs astray.
Lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray.
When sheep go wrong,
It won’t take long till the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so with the sheep we earnestly plead
For the sake of the lambs today,
For when the sheep are lost
What a terrible cost
The lambs will have to pay.
I thought of this exact poem when I heard about a family who just left the Church. They have been living in the Lyman 2nd Ward. He had become active after many years of inactivity. She had been converted and baptized and was ‘on fire’ with the Spirit! I took a couple of classes from her and she spoke constantly about her conversion. Recently, the wife had been teaching in Primary. I heard her bear her testimony of how the gospel had changed her life. How very, very happy she was. But, over a relatively short time, Satan eroded the foundations of their home and they asked for their names to be taken off the records of the Church. Now they are moving to Texas. And what a terrible cost. The lambs will have to pay.
It is difficult to overstate the importance parents have in teaching their children celestial traditions through word and example. Heavenly Father has a huge stake in this whole earth life! His beloved children are here, trying to do the things necessary to return to Him. I have faith that He will bless our lives and homes to the same degree that we exert effort in making our homes Christ-like.
When parents preside over the family in love and righteousness and teach their children the gospel of Jesus Christ by word and through example, and when children love and support their parents by learning and practicing the principles their parents teach, the result will be the establishment of a Christ-centered home.
Sisters, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand and believe in the eternal nature of the family. This understanding and belief should inspire us to do everything in our power to establish a Christ-centered home. As I studied for this lesson I wanted to do something concrete. I wanted to make a list of things I can do every single day. Things I have total control over. Things that I know will make a difference. And although it’s not a list for you, and it’s far from perfect, this is where I began a couple of weeks ago.
I can do these things to strengthen my home and make it Christ centered:
• Morning and evening prayers of gratitude
• Study truth and gain enlightenment
• Pray specifically for ways to help my children grow in the gospel
• Look for ways to love and appreciate my husband
• Follow counsel of our living Prophet and his appointed associates
• Be an example of LDS standards and beliefs
I have a House Blessing that hangs above my piano and I like to read it every couple of days. Two of the lines are especially appropriate for this lesson: It says,
“May this house be a refuge from the storms of life where kind words are spoken freely and thoughtfulness and respect are shown.”
“May there be reverence for God and daily prayers of thankfulness.
Elder Maynes says, “I bear you my testimony that as we strive to do these things, and as we more fully practice the love and service that was exemplified through the life and Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our homes can truly feel like heaven on earth.
I pray that each of our homes will be Christ-Centered and that each of us will have peace and safety in these often troubled days. For all of these, and other eternally important reasons, we can be sure, in these significant pursuits, we will never be left alone. Our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son live. They love us and know our circumstances, and they will help us to transform our homes.