Life is all about families! As I have been writing histories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I’m drawn to them with increased tenderness and honor, even greater than when they were alive. Some of them I never knew. I am also thinking about precious one-on-one moments with my children and grandchildren in soul-connecting activities and discussions. I am happiest in the presence of my family. My thoughts wrap around them; every prayer centers on them; my heart is linked inseparably by eternal bonds. Family is everything to me—husband, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, grandparents—backwards and forwards up and down the generations. It’s like an intricate web that cannot be touched without setting the whole matrix in motion. I think of my posterity yet to be born, and already love them with inexpressible intensity. I yearn to leave behind a legacy of faith to help them remain constant as they traverse their mortal journey. I hope to assist them—by example and precept—to have a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ which will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face. I know this love and concern will increase, in this lifetime and beyond the veil, as I continue to labor and pray in their behalf. Family is my work, my joy, my life—now and forever. Family gives me abundant Reasons to Rejoice!
When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons to Rejoice!
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: What sacrifices have I been asked to make in my religion? I believe that a religion that does not require effort and sacrifice—doesn’t produce faith, refinement, and spiritual growth in its members. We understand this principle in other areas. For example, if I work hard and save money to pay for my college tuition, I will apply myself with greater diligence and appreciation. And how absurd it would be to ask a physical trainer to help me develop bulging biceps and total body fitness without performing strenuous exercise? The principle of sacrifice and reward has application in every dimension of our lives. It applies to religion too. If it doesn’t pinch, it isn’t a sacrifice. Here are some sacrifices I’m striving to make. I am imperfect, but I will never give up trying.
- Resist forbidden things.
- Study scriptures daily.
- Pray morning and night (and in between).
- Obey commandments.
- Minister and serve others, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Prioritize marriage and family as number one—to love, teach and minister.
- Cherish the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Fast and pay tithing.
- Repent when I make mistakes and strive to improve.
- Stand as a witness for truth.
- Treat others kindly even when mistreated. Forgive freely.
- Learn to love with compassion and courtesy.
Note the ACTION WORDS: Resist, study, pray, obey, minister, serve, prioritize, cherish, repent, stand, learn, love, forgive.
A friend told me that before her family kneels for prayer each evening, they take a moment to reflect and share a particular experience that day which manifests Heavenly Father’s love. The person offering the prayer then includes expressions of gratitude for those specific things. In this way, family members are being made aware of one another’s kindnesses from God. This exercise also helps avoid vain repetitions and keeps expressions fresh. Though our children are now grown with families of their own, we continue the tradition of kneeling for family prayer whenever we gather together in our home. It is a sweet finish to every family activity before we hug goodbye. There is truth to the adage that “families who pray together—stay together.”
- Prayer is an acknowledgment that God is our Father and Jesus Christ is our Savior.
- Prayer is a sincere confession of mistakes, and a request for forgiveness.
- Prayer is recognition that we need help beyond our ability.
- Prayer is an opportunity to express gratitude to our Creator.
- Prayer is a privilege to ask God for specific blessings.
When families kneel together in humble supplication both morning and night, they enjoy a bonding spirit of love and unity.
I have more to say about good mothers. This is the kind of mother I want to be: “If you need a woman to rear children in righteousness, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman to make a house a home filled with love, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman who will shun vulgarity and dress modestly and speak with dignity and show the world how joyous it is to keep the commandments, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman who can resist the alluring temptations of the world by keeping her eyes fixed on eternity, Here am I, send me” (M. Russell Ballard). What I say to every mother about to give birth to a daughter is this: I’m glad you’re having a girl because the world needs good mothers! A good mother LIFTS, BENDS, and BALANCES with near superhuman strength. “Motherhood is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels” (David O. McKay). We mothers need to be reminded of this beautiful description of our career.
The world is in critical need of good mothers. Good mothers “are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying” (Julie Beck). Quality of time is certainly important, but quantity of time spent with children is essential. Because there are limited hours in a day, we have to make choices—and often these choices come in three sizes: good, better, and best. That’s the tough part—prioritizing and making time for the best things. Good mothers are constantly growing, continually learning so they can be effective resources and role models. When children are grown and have flown from the nest, a good mother’s influence continues into the next generation. In fact, her legacy impacts many generations.
On this beautiful Christmas night I am cradling our precious newborn Christmas baby, so pure and fresh from heaven. She adorns our family’s celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth—His ministry, ordinances, priesthood, miracles, and example. But especially I celebrate His marvelous gift of Atonement—which is the most sacred event in the history of mankind. As I learn more of the Atonement, my motivation to embrace its full effects in my life is also increased. Atonement literally means being “at one” or united with God. Christ has paid my debt, and through my sincere repentance, He cleanses me so that I can be worthy to dwell with Him eternally. The ultimate oneness is not only a matter of geography but oneness in identity. It’s not just being in God’s presence, but growing to become like Him in attribute. “Contemplation of the Atonement moves me to the most intense gratitude and appreciation of which my soul is capable” (Marion G. Romney). A prominent goal this year is to thoroughly study and stretch to apply the Savior’s Atonement in my life.