Many years ago while serving on the Relief Society general board, I was on an assignment to teach and train some Relief Society and priesthood leaders. We had arrived just in time for the meeting to begin, after having spent the morning teaching in another city.
I was the first speaker, following the opening song and prayer. The opening song was announced as “The Time Is Far Spent.”
I was not familiar with the title of this hymn and thought that it was odd that this was to be the opening song. I hadn’t even spoken, and already they were singing that the time was far spent!
As we began singing the song, I soon realized that it referred to the little time that is remaining to publish the gospel message and bring souls to Christ. The words of the fourth verse ran through my mind the whole evening and many times since then. It says:
Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you;
The weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you;
His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.
His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.1
The message of that verse is that whatever happens in life, Jesus Christ has the power to save. Through His divine sacrifice, He has provided the way for us to gain eternal life. Truly, His work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”2 He has asked for our assistance in helping one another do the things that will lead to eternal life.
Last September in the general Relief Society meeting, Sister Beck outlined three things to help us in our goal to obtain eternal life. They are:
“Increase in faith and personal righteousness.”
“Strengthen families and homes.”
“Serve the Lord and His children.”3 This also means to seek out and care for the poor and needy.
We know Satan will tempt and try us as we seek to do these things, but the Lord has promised that He will strengthen us. He will help us.4
As a child I was taught by my parents that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me. I was taught that “I am a child of God.”5 I can’t remember when I didn’t know this. They taught me that Jesus Christ is our Savior and only through Him can we be saved.6
I was also taught that in order for my faith to increase, I needed to pray every day. In fact, I needed to pray always.7 I was taught that as I read and studied the scriptures, my knowledge and testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel would grow. I was taught to love God and that I could show my love by keeping His commandments.8 I also learned as a child about the importance of the temple. In my youth I learned that making and keeping sacred temple covenants would keep me on course to eternal life.
Each of us must follow these principles throughout our lives to increase our faith and personal righteousness.
It is the responsibility and blessing of each of us to strengthen our families and homes. Each of us is in a different family situation. Some families have a mother and father with children at home. Some couples no longer have children at home. Many members of the Church are single, and some are single parents. Others are widows or widowers living alone.
No matter what our family looks like, each of us can work to strengthen our own families or help in strengthening others.
Some ways to strengthen families are illustrated by the following example. I had an assignment in the Boise, Idaho, area. After training on Saturday afternoon, I stayed in the home of my niece and her family. That evening before the children went to bed, we had a short family home evening and a scripture story. Their father told about the family of Lehi and how he taught his children that they must hold fast to the iron rod, which is the word of God.9 Holding fast to the iron rod would keep them safe and lead them to joy and happiness. If they should let go of the iron rod, there was danger of drowning in the river of dirty water.
To demonstrate this to the children, their mother became the “iron rod” that they must cling to, and their father played the role of the devil, trying to pull the children away from safety and happiness. The children loved the story and learned how important it is to hold fast to the iron rod.
After the scripture story it was time for family prayer. Their mother reminded the children to pray for the bishop, who was having serious eye problems. Three-year-old Brooklyn offered the prayer that evening. She thanked Heavenly Father for their blessings, and then she fervently asked Him to “bless the bishop because his eyes are broken.”
The next morning we got to sacrament meeting and got seated. Brooklyn and her five-year-old sister, Kennedy, looked up on the stand and saw the bishop standing there. The girls pointed to the bishop and excitedly said to their mother, “Look, there’s the bishop.” Then a knowing look passed between these two little girls that seemed to say “We prayed for the bishop, and now he is better.” They prayed in faith, knowing that Heavenly Father would hear their humble prayers.
Scriptures, family home evening, and family prayer will strengthen families. We need to take every opportunity to strengthen families and support one another to stay on the right path.
Throughout His mortal life the Savior taught that we should care for one another and help one another. He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, restored sight to the blind, and unstopped the ears of the deaf. He taught the people the gospel. He blessed the people and performed many mighty miracles.10
There are opportunities everywhere to help those in need. I submit to you that at some time in our lives, each of us will be poor in some way and will need the help of another person. For “are we not all beggars?”11
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”12
Last summer when I was away from home, a fierce wind and rainstorm blew through our neighborhood. A huge tree had fallen from my neighbor’s yard, filling my yard and knocking down power lines. The tree needed to be removed before the damage could be repaired and power restored to my home.
Early in the morning I called my brother, who planned to find some equipment and come as soon as he could. I also called my bishop. Within minutes my bishop, home teacher, former stake president, and 10 men from my ward were there with their chain saws and made quick work of this disaster. My visiting teachers brought in dinner that evening. Many more men from the high priests group, the elders quorum, and the neighborhood came on subsequent evenings to assist me and my family in cleaning up the mess.
I was needy on that occasion. I needed help from others. My discouragement turned into joy and gratitude. I felt loved and cared for. These people were quick to recognize one in need. They lived their testimony and demonstrated the reality of their covenants.
At Church headquarters we often receive thank-you notes from people not of our church who have been served by you after a flood, hurricane, earthquake, or other disaster. Thank you for always being willing to serve, love, give, and thus be a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
We must be “fixed in [our] purpose”13 as we seek to increase in faith and personal righteousness, strengthen our families and homes, and serve the Lord and His children. Though Satan may oppose our efforts, I testify of Jesus Christ and the power of His atoning sacrifice, enabling us to do His will and magnifying our efforts in the process. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.