The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn(D&C 2:1-3)
Elder David A. BednarOf the Quorum of the Twelve
Elijah appeared with Moses on the mount of transfiguration (see Matthew 17:3) and conferred this authority upon Peter, James, and John. Elijah appeared again with Moses and others on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple and conferred the same keys upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Scripture records that Elijah the prophet stood before Joseph and Oliver and said:
“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (D&C 110:14-16).
The restoration of the sealing authority by Elijah in 1836 was necessary to prepare the world for the Savior’s second coming and initiated a greatly increased and worldwide interest in family history research.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. … For it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fullness of the the salvation of man. … Hence, God said, I will send you Elijah the prophet.” (“Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” , 475).
Joseph further explained, “But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? Or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21].
“But how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead …; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (“Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” 472-473).
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.
The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. “They without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40; see “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” 475). And “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).
For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the “whole earth from being smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
After joining Adam and Eve in marriage, the scripture reads: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” In our day, prophets and apostles have declared, “The first commandment that God gave Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
This commandment has not been forgotten or set aside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We express deep gratitude for the enormous faith shown by husbands and wives (especially our wives) in their willingness to have children. When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.
Years ago Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy shared this story with me: “The birth of our sixth child was an unforgettable experience. As I gazed on this beautiful, new daughter in the nursery just moments after her birth, I distinctly heard a voice declare, ‘There will yet be another and it will be a boy.’ Unwisely, I rushed back to the bedside of my absolutely exhausted wife and told her the good news. It was very bad timing on my part.” Year after year the Masons anticipated the arrival of their seventh child. Three, four, five, six, seven years passed. Finally, after eight years, their seventh child was born – a little boy. Here they are 37 years later.
Last April, President Thomas S. Monson declared: “Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider … The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.”
Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family. My daughters recently referred me to a blog written by a Christian mother (not of our faith) with five children. She commented:
“[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. …Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds, “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”
Having young children is not easy. Many days are just difficult. A young mother got on a bus with seven children. The bus driver asked: “Are these all yours lady? Or is it a picnic?” “They’re all mine,” she replied. “And it’s no picnic!” As the world increasingly asks, “Are these all yours?” thank you for creating within the Church a sanctuary for families, where we honor and help mothers with children.
To a righteous father, there are no words sufficient to express the gratitude and love he feels for his wife’s incalculable gift of bearing and caring for children.
Elder Mason had another experience just weeks after his marriage that helped him prioritize his family responsibilities. He said: “Marie and I had rationalized that to get me through medical school it would be necessary for her to remain in the work place. Although this was not what we [wanted] to do, children would have to come later. [While looking at a Church magazine at my parents’ home] I saw an article by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, [highlighting] responsibilities associated with marriage. According to Elder Kimball one sacred responsibility was to multiply and replenish the earth. My parents’ home was [close to] the Church Administration Building. I immediately walked to the offices and thirty minutes after reading his article, I found myself sitting across the desk from Elder Spencer W. Kimball.” (This wouldn’t be so easy today.) “I explained that I wanted to become a doctor. There was no alternative but to postpone having our family. Elder Kimball listened patiently and then responded in a soft voice, ‘Brother Mason, would the Lord want you to break one of his important commandments in order for you to become a doctor? With the help of the Lord, you can have your family and still become a doctor. Where is your faith?’”
Elder Mason continued, “Our first child was born less than a year later. Marie and I worked hard and the Lord opened the windows of heaven.” The Masons were blessed with two more children before he graduated from medical school four years later.
A Time to Prepare
Elder Ian S. Ardern
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy
I am grateful for President Monson’s model. With all that he does as a prophet of God he ensures, as the Savior did, that there is still sufficient time to visit the sick, (Luke 17:12) to lift the poor in spirit, and to be a servant of all. I am also grateful for the example of many others who give their time in the service of their fellowmen. I testify that giving our time in the service of others is pleasing to God and that such will draw us nearer to Him. Our Savior will be true to his word that, “he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.” (Doctrine and Covenants 72:4)
Time is never for sale; try as you may, time is a commodity that cannot be bought at any store for any price, yet wisely used its value is immeasurable. On any given day we are all allocated, without cost, the same number of minutes and hours to use and we soon learn as the familiar hymn so carefully teaches, “Time flies on wings of lightning, we cannot call it back” ( Hymn226, Improve the Shining Moments). What time we have we must use wisely. President Brigham Young said, “We are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage and He will require of us a strict account of [its] disposition” (Discourses of Brigham Young p. 301).
With the demands made of us we must learn to prioritize our choices to match our goals or risk being exposed to the winds of procrastination and being blown from one time wasting activity to another. We are well taught about priorities by the Master Teacher when He declared in His Sermon on the Mount (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, May Ensign 2001) “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God and to establish His righteousness.” (JST Matthew 6:33)
Alma spoke of priorities when he taught that “this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God…” (Alma 12:24). How to best use the rich heritage of time to prepare to meet God may require some guidance but surely we would place the Lord and our families at the top of the list. President Uchtdorf reminded us that, “In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e” (October 2010 General Conference). I testify that when help is prayerfully and sincerely sought, our Heavenly Father will help us to give emphasis to that which deserves our time above something else.
The poor use of time is a close cousin of idleness. As we follow the command to cease to be idle (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124) we must be sure that being busy also equates to being productive. For example, it is wonderful to have the means of instant communication quite literally at our finger tips but let us be sure that we do not become compulsive finger tip communicators. I sense that some are trapped in a new time consuming addiction; one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive.
There is much that is good with our easy access to communication and information. I have found it helpful to access research articles, conference talks, ancestral records, and to receive e-mails, face book reminders, tweets and texts. As good as these things are we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer with all their sophistication drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text.
“It Is Better to Look Up”
Elder Carl B. Cook
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy
At the end of a particularly tiring day, toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question, “How can I possibly do this?” I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building. As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor.
The door opened and someone entered, but I didn’t look up. As the door closed, I heard someone ask, “What are you looking at down there?” I recognized that voice–it was President Monson. I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” [I’m sure that clever response inspired confidence in my abilities!] But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!” As we travelled down one more level he cheerfully explained that he was on his way to the temple. When he bid me farewell, his parting glance spoke again to my heart, “Now, remember, it is better to look up.”
As we parted, the words of a scripture came to mind, “Believe in God; believe that he is…; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth;” As I thought of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s power, my heart found the comfort I had sought in vain from the floor of that descending elevator.
Since then, I have pondered this experience and the role of prophets. I was burdened and my head was down.
As the prophet spoke and I looked to him, he redirected my focus to look up to God where I could be healed and strengthened through Christ’s Atonement. That is what prophets do for us. They lead us to God.
I testify that President Monson is not only a prophet, seer, and revelator, he is also a wonderful example of living the principle of looking up. Of all people, he could feel weighed down by his responsibilities. Instead, he exercises great faith and is filled with optimism, wisdom, and love for others. His attitude is one of “can do” and “will do.” He trusts the Lord and relies on Him for strength, and the Lord blesses him.
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr.
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy
I have a friend who did not follow the teachings of the Church in his youth. When he was a young adult, he realized what he had been missing by not living the gospel. He repented, changed his life and devoted himself to righteous living. One day, years after our youthful association, I met him in the temple. The gospel light shown in his eyes and I sensed that he was a devoted member of the Church trying to fully live the gospel. His is a story of redemption.
I once interviewed a woman for baptism who had been guilty of a very grievous sin. During the interview I asked if she understood that she could never repeat that sin. With deep emotion in her eyes and in her voice she said, “Oh president, I could never do that sin again. That is the reason I want to be baptized – to cleanse me from the effects of that terrible sin.” Hers is a story of redemption.
As I have visited stake conferences and other meetings in recent years, I have carried President Monson’s call to rescue the less active members of the Church. At one stake conference I told a story of a less active member who returned to full activity after his bishop and other leaders visited him in his home, told him he was needed and called him to serve in the ward. The man in the story not only accepted the call, but changed his life and habits and became fully active in the Church.
A friend of mine was in the congregation to which I told that story. His countenance visibly changed as the story was told. He sent me an email the next day telling me that his emotional reaction to the story was because his father-in-law’s story of returning to activity in the Church was very similar to the one that I had told. He told me that as a result of a similar visit by a bishop and an invitation to serve in the Church, his father-in-law reevaluated his life and his testimony, made major changes in his life and accepted the call. That re-activated man now has 88 descendants who are active members of the Church.
At a meeting a few days later I told both stories. The next day I received another email which began “That’s my Father’s story, too.” That email, from a stake president, told how his father was invited to serve in the Church, even though he had not been active and had some habits that needed changing. He accepted the invitation, and in the process, repented, eventually served as a stake president and then mission president and laid the foundation for his posterity to be faithful members of the Church. A few weeks later I told all three stories in another stake conference. After the meeting, a man came to me and told me that that was NOT his father’s story. It was HIS story. He told me of the events that led him to repent and come back to full involvement in the Church. And so it went: As I carried the call to rescue the less-active, I heard story after story of people who responded to invitations to come back and change their lives. I heard story after story of redemption.
Although we can never repay the Redeemer what He paid on our behalf, the plan of redemption calls for our best efforts to fully repent and do the will of God.
“The Divine Gift of Repentance”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness. In a General Conference address entitled, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” President Boyd K. Packer provided this analogy:
In April of 1847, Brigham Young led the first company of pioneers out of Winter Quarters. At that same time, sixteen hundred miles to the west the pathetic survivors of the Donner Party straggled down the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the Sacramento Valley. They had spent the ferocious winter trapped in the snowdrifts below the summit. That any survived the days and weeks and months of starvation and indescribable suffering is almost beyond belief.
Among them was fifteen-year-old John Breen. On the night of April 24 he walked into Johnson’s Ranch. Years later John wrote:
“It was long after dark when we got to Johnson’s Ranch, so the first time I saw it was early in the morning. The weather was fine, the ground was covered with green grass, the birds were singing from the tops of the trees, and the journey was over. I could scarcely believe that I was alive.
“The scene that I saw that morning seems to be photographed on my mind. Most of the incidents are gone from memory, but I can always see the camp near Johnson’s Ranch.”
At first I was very puzzled by his statement that “most of the incidents are gone from memory.” How could long months of incredible suffering and sorrow ever be gone from his mind? How could that brutal dark winter be replaced with one brilliant morning?
On further reflection I decided it was not puzzling at all. I have seen something similar happen to people I have known. I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness.
When morning came they learned this: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
I gratefully acknowledge and testify that the incomprehensible suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord “bringeth to pass the condition of repentance” (Helaman 14:18). The divine gift of repentance is the key to happiness here and hereafter. In the Savior’s words and in deep humility and love, I invite all to “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). I know that in accepting this invitation, you will find joy both now and forever.
“Perfect Love Castest Out Fear”
Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Twelve
Joseph Smith wrote his history in part to “disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts” (JSH 1:1). It is true that there will always be those who distort the truth and deliberately misrepresent the teachings of the Church.
But the majority of those with questions about the Church simply want to understand. These fair-minded people are genuinely curious about us.
The growing visibility and reputation of the Church presents a remarkable opportunity to us as its members. We can help to “disabuse the public mind,” and correct misinformation when we are portrayed as something we are not. More importantly, though, we can share who we are.
There are a number of things that we can do—that you can do—to advance understanding of the Church. If we do it with the same spirit, and conduct ourselves in the same way we do when we host a temple open house, our friends and neighbors will come to understand us better. Their suspicions will evaporate, negative stereotypes will disappear, and they will begin to understand the Church as it really is.
Let me suggest a few ideas about what each of us can do.
First, we must be bold in our declarations of Jesus Christ. We want others to know that we believe that He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be Holy Scripture. The Old Testament set the stage for Christ’s mortal ministry. The New Testament describes His mortal ministry. The Book of Mormon gives us the second witness of His mortal ministry. He came to earth to declare His gospel as a foundation for all mankind so all of God’s children could learn about and follow His teachings. He then gave His life to be our Savior and Redeemer. Only through Jesus Christ is our salvation possible. This is why we believe He is the central figure in all human history. Our eternal destiny has always been in His hands. It is a glorious thing to believe in Him and accept Him as our savior, our Lord, and our Master.
We also believe that it is possible, only through Christ, to find ultimate contentment, hope, and happiness, both in this life and in the eternities. Our doctrine as taught in the Book of Mormon emphatically states:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20).
We declare our belief in Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Savior. He will bless us and guide us in all of our efforts. As we labor here in mortality, He will strengthen us and bring us peace in the time of trials. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints walk by faith in Him whose church it is.
Second, be a righteous example to others. After our declaration of our beliefs we must follow the counsel given to us in 1Timothy 4:12:
…but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
The Savior taught about the importance of being an example of our faith, by saying “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Our lives should be examples of goodness and virtue, as we try to emulate His example to the world. Good works by each of us can do credit to both the Savior and His Church. As you are engaged in doing good, being honorable and upright men and women, the light of Christ will be reflected by your lives.
Next, speak up about the Church. In the course of our everyday lives, we are blessed with many opportunities to share what we believe with others. When our personal and professional associates inquire about our religious beliefs, they are inviting us to share who we are and what we believe. They may or may not be interested in the Church, but they are interested in getting to know us at a deeper level.
My recommendation to you is to accept their invitations. Your associates are not inviting you to teach, preach, expound, and exhort. Engage them in a two-way conversation—share something about your religious beliefs, but also ask them about their beliefs. Gauge their level of interest by the questions they ask. If they are asking a lot of questions, focus the conversation on answering their questions. Always remember that it is better for them to ask than you to tell.
Some members seem to want to keep their membership in the Church a secret. They have their reasons. For example, they may believe it is not their place to share their beliefs. Perhaps they are fearful they might make a mistake or be asked a question they can’t answer. If such thoughts ever run through your head, I have some advice for you. Simply remember the words of John: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we simply love God and love our neighbors, we are promised we will overcome our fears.