“Families Are Forever,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 20
The changes in the Church organizational structure presented by President Tanner today and sustained by you are additional evidence of the divine inspiration of the Lord in directing the affairs of His Church. It is inspiring to watch and, when appropriate, participate with the First Presidency as they prepare for the rapid expansion of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the earth. It will be successful. It must be accomplished by us. He has declared: “I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will. Learn of me, and listen to my words.” (D&C 19:24, 23.)
He has committed to mankind the promise that all who believe and are baptized in His holy name and endure in faith to the end will be saved. (See D&C 20:25.) As of today the Church is even more effectively prepared to reach and encourage all men to hearken unto His voice, for His everlasting covenant is established and is a standard for His people. They are to be messengers and prepare the way before Him. (See D&C 45:2, 9.) Inhabitants of the earth are to receive the gospel that the kingdom of God might go forth. The Lord has said, “Thou [meaning us] shalt declare glad tidings, … publish it upon the mountains, … upon every high place, … among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.
“… thou shalt declare repentance … and remission of sins by baptism.” (D&C 19:29, 31.)
Baptism is the gate through which all must enter to accomplish the Lord’s desire to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The family home evening manual now being used throughout the world has a most inspiring first lesson. The theme is “Families Are Forever.” Families are instructed to place a number of items on a table, among which are a marriage certificate, a temple recommend, a picture of a temple, and a baptismal certificate. Family members are then asked to explain their relationship.
Church members know that all of these items placed on the table have a relationship to temple marriage and the possibility of a “forever family.” This afternoon I would like to highlight one of those items on the table—the baptismal certificate.
A “forever family” requires that couple possess baptismal certificates, be worthy members of the Church to qualify for temple recommends, and possess a marriage certificate signifying a celestial marriage. Now what about the millions of our Heavenly Father’s children who, if they were baptized, could receive blessings which would lead to becoming an eternal family?
Our full-time missionaries are having increasing success in all parts of the world in bringing souls into the waters of baptism. But their success could be multiplied many times if they had the enthusiastic cooperation of the members of the Church. It would seem most members of the Church have a built-in reluctance to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors. Many of us take pride in referring to the growth of the Church or the success of the worldwide missionary effort but have never fellowshipped an acquaintance or a neighbor. When returning mission presidents are asked, “How could you have had more conversions in your mission,” we hear the same reply: “If only we could get the members to assist the missionaries by preparing their friends and neighbors to receive the elders.”
Have we forgotten our obligation? Have we forgotten what the Lord said?
“Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor. Therefore, they are left without excuse.” (D&C 88:81–82.)
“I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, … to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded.
“And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor.” (D&C 38:40–41.)
Your missionary sons and daughters are trained to teach the gospel, to teach in an orderly, inspired manner, which hopefully leads to baptism. To a missionary, every hour is precious and must be productive. Do you realize missionaries baptize about one person for every 1,000 homes they tract? These same missionaries will baptize 600 people for every 1,000 who are taught in the homes of members—600 times more converts when members participate with conviction.
More of these exciting young servants of the Lord are in your wards and branches than ever before. Missionaries are going out better trained, better prepared, with higher hopes and aspirations. Every family that has accepted the gospel is obligated to share it with its neighbor. We can interest people in the gospel by just being natural and sincerely showing our love for them. Emily Dickinson wrote: “We never know how high we are/Till we are called to rise/And then if we are true to plan/Our statures touch the skies.” (Familiar Quotations, comp. John Bartlett, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968, p. 737.)
You who are reluctant to prepare the way for a teaching opportunity for the missionaries in your neighborhood are denying yourselves rich blessings and are not obeying President Kimball’s counsel. He said, “I know this message [every member a missionary] is not new, and we have talked about it before; but I believe the time has come when we must shoulder arms. I think we must change our sights and raise our goals.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “When the World Will Be Converted,” Regional Representatives Seminar, April 4, 1974.)
The prophet Nephi said: “For the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days.” (1 Ne. 15:32.)
On an airplane flight a few weeks ago, a friend of mine engaged a lady in conversation. He told her about his trip to Anderson, South Carolina, to visit a fourth cousin because he was seeking information concerning some of his ancestors. He asked this lady sitting next to him, “Would you like to know why I am interested in my ancestors who died long ago?”
“Yes, I would,” she replied.
“I was trying to find information about my forebears so I could perform certain work for them in the temple. Do you know where the Savior was during the three days His body lay in the tomb following the crucifixion?”
He continued, “Peter, the apostle, said Christ preached to the spirits in prison who were disobedient in the days of Noah.” And then he said, “Now, do you think the Savior of the world would spend three days preaching to such people if they could not do anything about it?”
“No, I don’t. I have never thought of that,” she said.
He proceeded to explain baptism for the dead and the resurrection. He quoted Paul: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29.)
“Do you remember the phrase ‘until death do you part’ being used when you were married? Your marriage contract ends when either of you dies.”
She replied, “I guess that’s right, but I had never thought of it that way.”
He continued, “My wife died the forepart of last month, but she is my wife eternally. We were married by one having the priesthood authority to bind in heaven that marriage performed here on earth. We belong to each other eternally; and furthermore, our children belong to us forever.”
Just before landing he said to her, “Do you know why we met? It is so you too can learn about the gospel and be sealed to your husband, your children, and your progenitors for eternity—to become an eternal family.”
Soon after this incident, he mailed a copy of Elder LeGrand Richards’s book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder to this lady and her family and tucked his name card inside. The name of this woman eventually found its way to some full-time lady missionaries laboring in her city in Pennsylvania. After the missionaries’ first contact with her, they wrote, “Mrs. Davis was extremely gracious. You should have seen the light in her eyes when she met us. Brother Cummings had planted a most fertile seed with his testimony and confidence that he and his loved ones would be together after this life. As missionaries we felt at peace. We were impressed that the Lord would attend our efforts because this family was prepared.”
Now to you I would say, do you remember the essentials of a “forever family”: baptismal certificates, temple recommends, marriage certificate? But first your friends and neighbors must have a baptismal certificate. The story told by Brother Cummings to the lady on the plane planted a desire for that baptismal certificate.
“For this is a day of warning, and not a day of many words. For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in the last days.” (D&C 63:58.)
“And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains. …
“And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me.” (D&C 19:29–30.)
Last January in an effort to stimulate missionary activity, our Ohio stakes presented a program on the Word of Wisdom entitled “What Makes Mormons Run?” Church leaders encouraged members to bring many friends and neighbors to this meeting. A stake high councilor was sure his neighbors would refuse; and though he felt obligated to invite his next-door neighbor, he kept putting it off, knowing they would not accept.
Finally, somewhat embarrassed, he decided not to postpone the challenge any longer; and after praying that his approach and words would not be misunderstood by his neighbor, and holding the hand of his eight-year-old daughter, he went next door. They knocked on the door, were warmly greeted, and invited in. An invitation was extended to this neighbor family to come and hear a world leader and a prophet of God. The family agreed to attend.
Now it was much easier to ask other neighbors, friends, associates, his daughter’s piano teacher, and many others. His newly found courage led to more success and a comfortable feeling. Over forty people responded to his invitation. They had to charter a bus to transport their guests to the meeting.
And what about the first neighbor he invited? They are now members of the Church, a potential “forever family.” Before this family was baptized, this high councilor wrote, “I tremble to think that because of my reluctance to share the gospel with my neighbors, this choice family would have lost the blessings of the gospel. Oh, that every Church member could feel this wonderful experience!”
And why did his neighbor decide to investigate the Church? The neighbor said: “If any other neighbor had come to my door to invite me to investigate religion, I would have declined; but we were so impressed with your family, your cleanliness, and your actions. You are always friendly and smiling. Your yard looks so neat and clean, and you are up working in your yard before anyone else is out of bed in the morning. We wanted to learn more about you and your church.”
The Lord declared: “For all men must repent and be baptized. …
“And by your hands I will work among the children of men, unto the convincing of many of their sins, that they may come unto repentance, and … may come unto the kingdom of my Father.” (D&C 18:42, 44.)
If you will involve your whole family—pray as a family for success; select a family to fellowship; set goals and dates for accomplishment; commit yourselves to do whatever is appropriate; then fast and pray, and then pray and fast—I promise you that your warning voice will be heard. This is the day when the harvest is ripe, the press is full. The Lord will bless your efforts. You will witness friends enter the waters of baptism.
The lives you touch may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Families are forever, I testify to you in all humility, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.