When I was young general conference was held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. One of my strongest memories as a young girl was coming home from school on the first Friday in October and April and seeing my mom sitting on the couch, sometimes folding clothes, and watching conference.
Although neither of my parents were raised in homes where following the prophet was emphasized, they made following the prophet one of the pillars of our home.
When I was young, there was one of many big pushes to have weekly family home evening. In those days the Church gave each family a manual and each ward in a building was given a different night of the week to hold family home evening. Some wards had Tuesday, some Wednesday, and some Thursday. My parents immediately began home evening. We had a song, a prayer, a lesson, and a treat—week after week. When my dad became bishop, he asked the members of our ward to not call him on family night unless it was an emergency. Those nights were always sacred.
They had similar reactions to other words of the prophets. We had family prayer and family scripture study. I can’t say that we as children loved this, but it is what our family did. I don’t think I realized there was any other option.
I remember one day my father decided to not follow the prophet. We often had my grandmother over for Sunday dinner. She loved whipped cream on jello. One particular Sunday we forgot to get the cream. The ox was in the mire. My dad went to the grocery store. He was elder’s quorum president at the time. When he came home, he was particularly quiet (an unusual state for my very fun-loving dad). Later, after my grandmother had left, he called us all together. He told us that at the store he had seen almost every member of his elders’ quorum. And they saw him. He said he had been a poor leader for all these men who needed the Sabbath day. He committed to us that he would never shop on the Sabbath again. And, except for one time, he didn’t. That one time, we had gone to visit cousins in Minnesota. We arrived early in the afternoon on Saturday. Just a few hours later, we learned that my grandpa, my mom’s dad, had unexpectedly passed away. We were a two day’s drive away from Salt Lake and had to be home by Monday. We jumped immediately into the car and headed home. We drove through the night. Dad had to stop and get gas. He did so (back in the days when an attendant filled up your car), but didn’t buy any treats or purchase anything else. In that situation, the ox truly was in the mire, but my dad never let his oxen stray to the mire again.
When I was in grade school the prophets began to emphasize dressing modestly. It seemed sort of obvious. But within a year mini skirts became the fashion rage. In one year in my school pictures the skirts (we had to wear dresses) went from a modest knee length to a foot above the knee. In my family the skirts didn’t change. I was ridiculed continually at school for my lack of fashion, but I learned the value of following the prophet even when it meant I wouldn’t fit in.
Did following the prophet remove all the trials from our life? No. It did not keep my parents from having a mentally handicapped child. It did not keep my sister from leaving the Church for a number of years (but it did help bring her back). It did not keep one of my sisters from being sexually assaulted in high school. It did not keep several of us from debilitating migraines. It did not keep us from depression and anxiety. But it did give us the strength to deal with these trials, it did help us to see things more clearly and to have hope, it did give us habits that kept us going through hard times when we might have been tempted to give up. And it did give me a testimony of following the prophet.
I think we all have tender feelings for the prophet of our youth. The prophet of my youth was Spencer W. Kimball. In 1976 I began my studies at BYU. The first devotional at BYU was always the prophet of the Church. I remember standing as President Kimball walked in and receiving a witness—again—that he was truly the prophet of the Lord. After the devotional I was invited with 95 other students to meet in a smaller meeting with the prophet. He talked to us from his heart. He told us to get our educations, to be diligent in our learning. Then he pointed his finger at us, and said, “And when you’re done, you go home and build your families. You love and teach your children. You use what you learn here to raise children unto the Lord.” I felt that I had been given my marching orders. As we left the room, he shook each of our hands. He was a short man; he had to look up to see my eyes, but I have never felt so in the presence of one of the Lord’s mighty men.
In 1980, I graduated from BYU and went to Washington, D. C. to work with the Senate Republican Policy committee. That summer the MX missile was a big thing, and I was given an assignment to research various aspects of it. The MX missile was a mobile missile that was supposed to be located in deep holes in Utah. Every so often the missiles would be moved to another deep hole, so it would be hard for the USSR to target them. I came away convinced the MX missile was a good thing.
In the fall of that year I started teaching 8th grade at a middle school in Riverton. In October conference, President Kimball said that the Church was against the MX missile, that it was not right to have such a missile so near the headquarters of the Church. I was stunned. I had been so sure it was a good thing. I realized for the first time just how wrong my thinking could be, how easily I could be led astray. I understand that the Lord’s ways were not my ways, and his thoughts were higher than my thoughts. I felt profoundly grateful for a prophet, who could and would direct me so much better than I could.
That same October President Kimball said something in general conference about the family that I have never forgotten. “Furthermore, many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us.”
I was single at the time, but those words struck me. I have never forgotten them. Later, when I had my own family, we memorized them. I believe the time has come. We must believe deeply and activity—that is we must be willing to act—if we want to preserve our families.
When Brian and I were engaged, we spent hours discussing what kind of home we wanted. We decided was wanted following the prophet to become one of the foundations of our home. When we were growing up, we had heard again and again from the prophets about three pillars of family spirituality: family home evening, family scripture study, and family prayer. Before we were married, we decided we wanted these three patterns to be part of our home. We started on our wedding day and have continued ever since.
We believed in the promises of Marion G. Romney. You are familiar with these words: “I feel certain that if, in our home, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children—
Wait! What do we have to do? Just read prayerfully and regularly—that’s all—prayerfully and regularly? Yup!
We will get these blessings:
- the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein.
- The spirit of reverence will increase
- Mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow
- The spirit of contention will depart
- Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom
- Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.
- Righteousness will increase
- Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives
- Bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.
Brian and I hung on these promises. We believed them, and we wanted them. We did our best to follow these homely spiritual practices.
Teaching the gospel in our home has been a focus of everything we have done. However, scripture study, family home evening, and family prayer with our seven children were not picture book experiences in our family. We’ve had our share of family arguments, pushing and shoving, blankets over heads during family scripture study, giggles and wrestling during family prayer, rolled eyes, sleeping teenagers, moans and groans, reading on the bedrooms floors of children who we could not wake up. But we persisted.
When our seven children were young, it was pretty easy to gather together and read. The kids wiggled, they jumped on couches, we had to keep grabbing them and bringing them back. But we read prayerfully and regularly.
At night we would read them the same scripture story over and over as they were lay in the beds. We read the same story until they could fill in the blanks any time we stopped. They loved it because we were letting them “stay up late” (til all of 7:30)
As they got older, we read in the morning. The children dragged their blankets up with them and pulled them over their heads. They argued about who got to sit by the fire in the winter. We tried reading one verse a piece; three verses a piece; one person read everything for that day. When our youngest could not drag himself out of bed, we read on his floor. Memorizations were an important part of our daily devotional. Over the years we memorized hundreds of quotes, scriptures, and poems. Sometimes we sang a hymn.
Family prayer often erupted in giggles—or arguments—or wrestling sprees.
Years ago all our family was gathered for general conference. Elder Bednar talked about family home evening. He talked about his boys, arguing: “He’s breathing my air.” All my children burst out laughing. We could relate to that kind of fhe.
As teenagers got busy, we tried various ways of holding family home evening. I remember one semester, one of our daughters wanted to play in the Utah Valley Youth Symphony. Practices were held on Monday nights until 7:00. We discussed it as a family and decided that I would be at the school to pick her up right at 7:00, rush her home, and we’d start our lesson right as she walked in the door. Finally, we realized this was not working. She gave up orchestra and we went back to our usual Monday night brawl. She had to sacrifice something that seemed so important then but means so little now. FHE, however, is an important part of her life, even though she doesn’t have her own family.
Now, I did not have children with ADHD or with autism. I didn’t have children who rebelled. I did not have to contend with those difficulties in establishing gospel practices. But I do have a testimony that it is possible to do what the prophets have asked us to do. There is some way for each family to follow the prophet. It will look as different from our way as your family looks from our family.
These practices have blessed our home and our family more than I can express. We have not been without troubles and problems, some of them serious, debilitating problems that have kept us up late at night and cost us many tears, but the foundation of those practices has kept us from falling completely apart when these difficult trials have threatened and continue to threaten us, when they have surrounded us with the mists of darkness that Lehi talks about in his vision of the tree of life. These practices have helped us to hold to the rod and move forward. Our family motto is “Stay by the tree.” We have so far been able to stay by the tree because we have followed the prophets in these things. [In my mind, this is our motto.]
In the last five years we have seen a huge acceleration in the emphasis the prophets have put on the family and in the family taking responsibility for our own growth in the gospel. Think for just a minute about what the prophets have asked us to do during that time:
- Sabbath Day (think of the significance of this emphasis given the changes we’ve been directed to do)
- Come Follow Me for youth
- Changes in Melchizedek Priesthood quorums
- Two-hour church–home centered; church supported gospel study
- Young men priesthood ordinances and both YM and YW temple opportunities
The speed of these changes almost leaves me breathless as I try to keep up. To do this will not be easy. We will have to sacrifice. Sacrifice for the gospel and our families is nothing new. Think of what Lehi had to sacrifice to have scripture study in his home. He had his life threatened. He had to leave his home, his money, the future comfort of his children. He had to send his sons back to a dangerous city, and Nephi had to kill a man to even obtain the scriptures. I wonder if the promised land would have been a promised land without those brass plates.
Our sacrifices will look different. We may have to give up binge watching the latest season of our favorite TV show, an hour or two in the gym, a vacation, lunch with our friends, and time on social media. We may have to cut back on a hobby or activities we feel our children must be involved in. For me I have to be careful about how much time I spend studying for school or reading books (which is my version of binge watching).
For me and Brian, this new emphasis has been a bit of a challenge. We have had to counsel together and try to find ways to implement Come Follow Me as a couple. It’s been a little hard. We’ve had to just try. We are still counseling about it, but we are trying, and we are committed to keep on trying. Because these sacrifices are not too much to ask.
We are told that we must accept the words of the prophet in all patience and faith. I have always thought of this patience and faith as applying to how we believe the prophets. They may say things we don’t like, so we have to have patience and faith and do them anyway. But as I have prepared for this talk and seen my own struggles as we attempt to implement Come Follow Me in our home, I have thought that we need to have patience with ourselves as we try to follow the prophet. We need to have faith that we can follow the prophet, enough faith that we will keep on trying. And we need to have patience with ourselves as we stumble around, enough patience that we don’t give up.
I trust that God will help us as we open the door to His influence. Christ showed the way. He went about doing good, he gave us an example, and he suffered and sacrificed in our behalf. Because of Him, we can succeed. The older I get, the more I realize how little I bring to the table. All that I am is because of Him. I hope we all turn to Him, giving up what keeps us from Him, and accepting His spirit, and His healing, hoping, changing and transforming power. These new changes in the Church are designed to help us do just that. Let’s take full advantage of them.