[Ward Conferences, 2019]
In our last General Conference, President Nelson said, “The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families… Scriptures make it clear that parents have the primary responsibility to teach the doctrine to their children.”
Our conference today focuses on the idea of home-centered church—or home-centered gospel learning. I would like to suggest twelve things that parents should especially teach their children at home—and that children should make a point of learning.
First is the nature of our relationship with God.
God is our father. He loves us as a perfect father would love his children and desire their development and happiness. Jesus Christ is our brother and also loves us with a perfect love.
Neither of them will tolerate or excuse any sin – yet their plan for us provides an escape from the worst effects of sin for those – and only for those – who love them and submissively receive them.
When I imagine meeting the Savior or my Father in Heaven, I anticipate feeling great love. I imagine receiving an embrace that will melt all my feelings. I imagine an overwhelming gratitude that helps me embrace them back. However, for all their kindness and goodness, I do not think of them as my “chum” or my “buddy.” I also imagine at that meeting an overwhelming impulse to prostrate myself before them in acknowledgement of my nothingness and in total awe and respect for their perfection.
God is to be loved and gratefully reverenced.
Faith is one of those lovely thoughts that seems so warm and cozy when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. But the Lord makes the rain to fall on the just and not just on the unjust. And those of us who fancy ourselves just are sometimes quite shocked and indignant, even feeling betrayed or abandoned, when the rain falls hard on us.
How will your child react when the rains of life have the water up his chin? What does God’s plan for us really look like? Why is uncertainty an essential element of the mortal experience? What is the role of adversity? How am I special? And how am I not? Why did God leave his Only Begotten alone in the Garden of Eden? And why will he leave you and I (more or less) alone at moments to experience things on our own? Why should I trust God in those moments? And what does it mean that faith is a principle of action?
Each of us feels a responsibility to dress our small child in a warm coat when they must be out in a cold rain. How much greater our responsibility to teach our children to trust God in their toughest moments.
We need to teach our children how to develop testimonies. Where does a testimony come from? The Holy Ghost is the most important place. There are additional evidences that the doctrine of the Church is correct and that the Church is led by men with legitimate priesthood keys.
Our children need to know how to pray, how to try to recognize the Spirit, and how to observe the impact of following the teachings of the Savior and the counsel of living prophets. They need to know the critical importance of the Book of Mormon.
They also need to see and hear our testimonies, which we must each nurture. This brings us to…
What is your daughter to do when she has questions that might challenge her testimony? Here is a catastrophic scenario for how she might handle it.
- First, she encounters a truth that is easily open to criticism, such as: Joseph Smith had some young wives in addition to Emma.
- Second, she thinks this might be a game changer and wonders why nobody ever told her before.
- Third, she thinks it possible that people have been trying to keep unpleasant truths from her so her best bet for exploring this is from people outside the Church.
- Fourth, she immerses herself in the viewpoints of so-called “anti-Mormons” and “former Mormons.”
- Eventually, she opts out of church activity.
In this scenario, she has taken an understandable path for someone who believes people have been trying to hide things from her.
How might parents handle this better?
- They might teach their children about Church history and about the Church’s reasons for its same-sex policies and about its love for gay people and all
- They might teach their children that questions are normal and good and that they have no need to fear expressing them.
- They might teach their children about the answers we have to their questions, including in Church-published materials.
- And they might teach their children about the fact that we don’t have an answer to every question – and about how we handle unknowns.
I recently heard two mistaken expressions with regard to someone who had committed an egregious sin and, wonderfully, wanted to repent and move on. The first was that this person decided to go to his bishop to “begin the repentance process.” The second was that, in so doing, he wanted to get his sin “taken care of.”
Well, repentance does not begin with confession. And talking to him won’t “take care of” the issue.
For some sins, talking to the bishop is an essential step. But even then, repentance doesn’t happen in the bishop’s office. Repentance happens inside a person’s heart. Repentance isn’t a two-step, five-step, or 50-step process. Repentance is a genuine change of heart and mind that inevitably results in a change of behavior; it is a reorientation of a person’s entire life toward God.
Genuine repentance is the most rewarding and comforting—and one of the most testimony-building experiences that we can have.
Sixth, the Holy Ghost.
We parents generally do a decent job of teaching their kids about the Holy Ghost. When an 8-year-old is interviewed for baptism and the Bishop asks about the role of the Holy Ghost children give some good answers:
- He will warn me of danger.
- He will comfort me when I’m sad.
- He will help me know what is true.
- Some even know that the Holy Ghost will testify specifically of Jesus.
I think we need to teach them one other very important thing. Her is how Elder Bednar put it, quote:
“The Holy Ghost is a sanctifier who cleanses and burns dross and evil out of human souls as though by fire… Receiving the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost in our lives creates the possibility of an ongoing cleansing of our soul from sin… We are blessed both by our initial cleansing from sin associated with baptism and by the potential for an ongoing cleansing from sin made possible through the companionship and power of the Holy Ghost.”
“May I respectfully suggest that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son do not intend for us to experience such a feeling of spiritual renewal, refreshment, and restoration just once in our lives.”
Your children know that they were clean at baptism. How many of them understand that they can be (and many are) as clean now as they were then?
If you’re unrepentant, you’re in serious trouble. If you’re humble, repentant, and striving, the Holy Ghost is cleansing and sanctifying you on an ongoing basis and you are clean.
Seventh, teach your children about the ordinances and covenants beyond baptism.
Do you—both dads and moms—know how to teach your sons and daughters about the covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood? What does it mean to receive the Priesthood, the Savior, and His servants? What does it mean to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God? What does it mean to magnify your calling?
If your sons think that serving a full-time mission is a bigger deal than receiving the Priesthood, then we’ve failed them and their future wives and children.
What about the Endowment? Will you provide your children with the same level of unpreparedness that we received from our parents? Or will you help them understand what it means to make a full, adult-level commitment to God and to ponder and learn?
Parents would do well to focus more on their kids’ preparedness for the temple than for a mission, though the latter is also important. Parents might also help their children who aren’t serving full-time missions consider the timing of receiving their Endowment and the wisdom of receiving it well ahead of their temple marriage.
Eighth, being a missionary.
We must undo the compartmentalization of missionary work in many of our minds. Nobody should start being a missionary when the stake president sets them apart. And nobody should stop being a missionary when they are released from their calling.
A great topic for family discussion is how to be a conscious, active missionary without a name badge.
Let me share with you four statements from Church leaders.
First, from LDS.org: “The law of consecration is a divine principle whereby men and women voluntarily dedicate their time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God’s kingdom.”
Next, Joseph Smith: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.”
Next, Bruce R. McConkie in General Conference:
“The law of sacrifice is a celestial law; so also is the law of consecration. …we must be able to live these two laws.
“Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.
“The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.”
Lastly, the following statement is included in this very first week’s study material in Come Follow Me—For Individuals and Families. It says, speaking of the infamous “rich young man,” “What he learned—and what we all must learn—is that being a disciple means giving our whole souls to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
Tenth, many are called, but few are chosen.
Setting our hearts upon the things of the world and aspiring to the honors of others—whether through misguided ambitions, social media, or neglect of God and His commandments—will keep us from the blessings of heaven. “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
How do we, as families, establish and maintain proper priorities and be spiritually minded? What a great topic for a family discussion!
Eleventh, perfectionism and vulnerability.
There is a little epidemic that runs through Utah County LDS culture. It manifests itself in our trying to convey to each other that all is well with us and we have no challenges or struggles. We try to look good on the outside and keep others out of our insides. The answer to every “Hi, how are you?” is “Fine, how are you?” because we can’t change the subject fast enough.
Smiling, looking nice, and keeping a nice home, of course, are not sins.
The problem is when we create a culture based on shame and judgmentalism. Too often, we are following Satan’s advice to “hide” out of unhealthy shame and we do it to avoid the judgments we imagine from others—judgments which are frankly not coming if we’d allow ourselves to discover that.
I don’t think we should go around reciting to everyone we meet all of our failures, shortcomings, and embarrassments. But I do think we need to teach our children how to be real and vulnerable and how to create a community of genuine love and understanding.
How do our sons learn to become outstanding husbands and fathers? Two ways, I think. We hope their own fathers’ examples will teach them positively. And we hope some good things will rub off on them if they go to Church.
But it’s not enough. All fathers set bad examples in addition to good examples, and osmosis doesn’t magically and sufficiently happen at church. We need to be explicit and address the subject head-on.
This will require vulnerability from fathers to teach what they should be instead of who they are. And it will require a willingness from mothers to explain to both their husbands and sons what a wife needs and what genuine manhood looks like to a woman.
Paul said men are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Boys need to be taught by their fathers and mothers what it means to love a woman in a Christlike way.
Brothers and Sisters, a new era has come to the Church. Our homes are to be the center of our worship, our study, and our development. Fathers and mothers have a divine responsibility to teach their children.
I testify that President Nelson holds priesthood keys and is the mouthpiece of the Lord today. I testify that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior. And I testify that life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[Given by Chris Juchau at Ward Conferences in the Highland Utah South Stake in early 2016]
We are delighted to be with you today. We are enthused about the theme of this ward conference: missionary work—and about the workshops that will follow this meeting.
I have six things I would like to say on the topic of missionary work.
First, your participation in missionary work will bless you and the generations of your family that come after you. Missionary work, however you do it, will bless your life.
I had an amazing experience as a 14-year-old Teacher. My father would very dutifully take me home teaching with him on the first Sunday of every month. I did not look forward to going. What a drag to go sit with a bunch of adults (mostly) and chit chat for a while and then have a lesson! BO-RING!, I thought. But something interesting happened. I came to discover that my father really cared about those people. And even more amazing to me, I came to discover that they cared about his caring about them. That chit chat turned out to be a lot more meaningful than I’d realized. Their worries were my father’s worries and the more mature I became, the more their worries became my worries, too. I remember coming home from those home teaching visits feeling good, rewarded, and so happy that I had gone. Over time, my distaste for going was replaced by my interest in those people. In fact, the more I got to know them, the more interested I was.
I am certain that we cannot participate in any form of missionary work that involves caring about someone, even if it is “just” God and our duty to Him that we care about at first, without the experience strengthening and improving us.
Second, the more I consider the phrase “missionary work” and what it means, the broader my definition becomes.
Certainly, missionary work means, first and foremost, trying to share the gospel with those who are least familiar with it. No matter how broad our definition becomes, we should not let a broader definition become an excuse for not reaching out to non-members.
Missionary work includes any effort to lift, encourage, cheer up, buoy up, or teach others.
There is missionary work to do at home, at school, at work; in our wards and out of our wards; over the internet, on an airplane, and during vacation; irrespective of people’s status with regard to church membership or activity level.
Every person around us needs love and friendship and encouragement. We should seek to be non-judgmental and genuinely interested in those we don’t know well—or in those we do know well but judge harshly. I have found that dislike for a person is frequently born of ignorance for that person and his or her life experience—and that fondness for a person is hard to avoid, once given a little insight into who they really are.
Recently, my wife decided to make dinner and bring it to a family in our ward. She decided to do that before she decided who she would bring it to. She prayerfully chose a couple in our ward—one who seldom seems to be at the center of attention—called the sister, and told her she’d like to bring dinner over. When she arrived, she was met by this wonderful, tearful sister who said she felt touched that somebody was thinking of her and her equally wonderful and quiet husband. To my first point, you can easily guess who came home from that experience feeling touched and lifted, herself.
This was an act of missionary work. Missionary work includes expressions of love and attempts to uplift and encourage anyone—regardless of the status of their faith or the outward expressions of their faith. The Savior served people from many varied backgrounds and situations.
Third, I would like to encourage the adults in this ward to get onto senior missions—and I am not just talking to people in their 60s and 70s. If you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s, you should be actively and anxiously making plans to serve a mission as soon as circumstances permit.
We send out a lot of young missionaries in this stake. We consistently have more than 100 missionaries serving. The demographics of our stake and the devotion of our members are such that we produce lots of wonderful and committed youth.
However. We are all getting older. And our children are getting older. We are getting closer every day to empty-nester status and retirement. This stake is a powerful engine for producing strong young missionaries who serve tremendously well around the world. We must also be a stake that is is an engine for producing the seasoned senior talent that is so much needed around the world.
Recently I was told that the Church needs 10,000 senior couples and they have just 6,000. Opportunities for senior couples are vast and varied and provide for great flexibility and even greater rewards. I know of two opportunities available right now. We are, in fact, anxiously looking for two couples for specific missions.
One is needed in Oakland to serve in the mission office with President and Sister Frandsen for 12, 18, or 24 months. It’s 40 hours of office work each week with evenings and weekends free. This couple is very urgently needed for the smooth running of that mission and to keep from having to staff the office with younger missionaries.
Another opportunity is very different from that. It is as a full-time “stay-at-home” couple serving within the boundaries of our stake—but this is a very real thing. You wear a name badge. You work 32 hours/week including morning study time, church meetings, and weekly temple service. You will do meaningful work, but you do not have to be physically fit for Nepal or Cape Verde. Ours is one of two stakes in Highland/Alpine/Cedar Hills which does not have this couple in place.
One of our sessions in the next couple of hours will be for people preparing to serve a mission as a senior couple. There will be limited room in the classroom. I hope it will be filled by adults of all ages.
I invite every person here today who is past the age of serving a mission as a young elder or sister to make real plans and undertake the appropriate preparations so that you will be able to contribute as a senior to the many missionary needs of the Church and of our brothers and sisters.
Fourth, I would like to point out that not all missionary efforts result in fairy-tale-like stories to be retold in the Ensign—though I would hesitate to call any missionary effort a failure. Not all missionary efforts follow the perfect script. But all sincere efforts to share the gospel and to lift others are good.
To wit… My family and I were on vacation in Southern California last year and I’d had a Book of Mormon in my bag for quite a while and I was anxious to give it out. On the last day of our trip, we spent some time walking along a path near the ocean. We were walking back toward our car and we passed an older couple sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean. They looked contemplative and I imagined that they were considering something serious. I debated within myself how they would receive an attempt from me to engage them.
I walked my family back to the car thinking about them and grabbed my Book of Mormon and headed back down the trail. When I got there, I started a small conversation with them and soon invited them to take my Book of Mormon and discover its message. The man was initially receptive and we chatted about an LDS person he had known many years ago, but the woman was immediately defensive and she got her way, so I kept my Book of Mormon and moved on, a bit disappointed.
Did anything good come of that little exchange? Well, of course I like to think that a seed of some kind was planted or maybe stirred a little. And I felt good that I’d made an effort. Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that that couple will join the Church, but the fact is that some efforts will be positively received and some won’t. No effort is wasted.
A year and a half ago, I knocked on the door of a man who I thought might not want to see me. I felt a little nervous, unsure how he would receive me. I didn’t have to introduce myself very much before he politely but very firmly told me to get lost. I knew that arguing or asserting myself was unlikely to soften his heart at that moment, so I assured him he had my respect and I got off his doorstep. A few months went by and we started to coincidentally find ourselves in the same place. I made a point of saying hello when I would see him but not trying to do more than that. To make a long story short, this man’s heart began to thaw a bit and hellos became small talk and small talk turned into real talk and he discovered that my interest was genuine and I discovered lots to like in him that just further developed the sincerity of my interest and so now we are friends and I can hopefully be a useful friend to him.
Fifth, missionary efforts do not need to be forced. In simply being genuine and kind with each other—and looking for opportunities to share the gospel and to lift people we truly care about—good things will happen.
As a missionary in Germany, I got to work one Saturday with my best friend in the mission. We were in his area and he had made an appointment with a man in his early twenties for about 10:00 that morning. When we got to his flat, we rang and there was no answer. We rang again and waited and were about to leave when we heard the sound of someone coming to the door. This man, not much older than we were, had probably been partying the night before. He’d obviously just gotten out of bed. He was only wearing a pair of shorts and his hair was all over the place. My friend asked if he remembered that we’d be coming. He said yes and motioned for us to come in and sit down while he headed to the kitchen. As he went in, he called out behind himself, “You guys want a beer?”
Now imagine you’re a full-time missionary. How do you answer that question? It’s obviously the perfect lead-in to the Word of Wisdom and a discussion about the evils of alcohol, the importance of spirituality, and how different we are as Mormons. My mind quickly spun with where his question should take us. But my friend, who, by many measures, including some that really matter, might be considered one of the most successful missionaries in our mission, simply answered, “This early?!” To which the man replied, “Yes, of course, you’re right.” And he came and joined us and heard a lesson about a Heavenly Father who loves him and a Savior who does, too. I was struck that morning by the lesson I learned from my friend that missionary work is about people and relating to them and not about over-lecturing on the commandments. It’s about what we have to offer more than it is about how we need to correct others. Specific teachings can come at the right time.
Lastly, brothers and sisters, may I encourage you to embrace and adopt for yourself the very first sentence in “Preach My Gospel”? The first sentence on page 1 says, “[My purpose is] to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
I don’t believe that statement applies exclusively to full-time missionaries at all. I believe it your purpose and my purpose as common covenant disciples. It also encompasses our responsibility as members of the Tribe of Ephraim.
The Savior compared you and me to “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Salt that has lost its savor is, to soften the language of Matthew 5 a little, not as useful as it could be.
You and I must accept our role as “salt” in its full meaning and we need a sense of urgency. We must wake up in the morning and think and pray and and say to ourselves, “Who can I lift today? Who can I encourage? How can I share the light of Christ and the message of the Savior with someone?”
We must accept that our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. We must be “other-minded.”
I close with my testimony that the restored gospel yields fruits of happiness and that missionary work blesses us and yields some very specific fruits of happiness. It will bless your life and it will bless your family.
May we constantly look for ways to act in the interest of others. May we desire and seek love for them. And may we exercise enough faith to show that love and share goodness with them.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.