Brethren and sisters, when we received the news that President Gordon B. Hinckley had passed away, each of us immediately felt a deep sense of loss. Knowing that his destiny was in the hands of the Lord, however, we have felt our mood shift from grief to gratitude. We are very grateful for what we have learned from this great prophet of God.
Today, at this solemn assembly, we have complied with the will of the Lord, who said that "it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by . . . one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church."1 This law of common consent2 has been invoked, and the Church will move forward on its prescribed course.
Members throughout the world sustain President Thomas S. Monson and his able counselors. We are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."3
The Lord revealed why "he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets." It is "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God."4
Thus the ministry of the Apostles - the First Presidency and the Twelve - is to bring about that unity of the faith and to proclaim our knowledge of the Master. Our ministry is to bless the lives of all who will learn and follow the "more excellent way" of the Lord.5 And we are to help people prepare for their potential salvation and exaltation.
The third article of faith declares that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
To be saved - or to gain salvation - means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death. People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him.
To be exalted - or to gain exaltation - refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm. These blessings can come to us after we leave this frail and mortal existence. The time to prepare for our eventual salvation and exaltation is now.6
As part of that preparation, one must first hear and understand the gospel. For this reason the gospel of Jesus Christ is being taken to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."7
Individual Responsibility Some years ago I met with a tribal king in Africa. When he realized that he was being taught by an Apostle of the Lord, he was deeply moved. He said that throngs of his people would be baptized if he were to give them such a mandate. I thanked him for his kindness but explained that the Lord does not work in that way.
The development of faith in the Lord is an individual matter. Repentance is also an individual matter. Only as an individual can one be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Each of us is born individually; likewise, each of us is "born again"8 individually. Salvation is an individual matter.
Family Responsibilities Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is "central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."9 The home is to be God's laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another.
Throughout the world, the family is increasingly under attack. If families fail, many of our political, economic, and social systems will also fail. And if families fail, their glorious eternal potential cannot be realized.
Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage from the Lord.10 In such a family we study the scriptures and pray together. And we fix our focus on the temple. There we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for His faithful children.
Thanks to God's great plan of happiness,11 families can be together forever - as exalted beings. Our Heavenly Father declared, "This is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."12 Both of His objectives were enabled by the Atonement of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. His Atonement made resurrection a reality and eternal life a possibility for all who would ever live.
Resurrection, or immortality, comes to every man and every woman as an unconditional gift.
Eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift. Conditions of this gift have been established by the Lord, who said, "If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God."13 Those qualifying conditions include faith in the Lord, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple.
No man in this Church can obtain the highest degree of celestial glory without a worthy woman who is sealed to him.14 This temple ordinance enables eventual exaltation for both of them.
In Church callings we are subject to release. But we cannot be released as parents. From the first days of human history, the Lord has commanded parents to teach the gospel to their children.15 Moses wrote, "Thou shalt teach . . . diligently . . . thy children, and shalt talk of [God's words] when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."16
In our day the Lord has added, "Bring up your children in light and truth."17 The Church is to assist and not to replace parents in their responsibilities to teach their children.
In this day of rampant immorality and addictive pornography, parents have a sacred responsibility to teach their children the importance of God in their lives.18 Those evils, so highly destructive of divine potential, are to be strictly shunned by children of God.
We are also to teach our children to honor their parents. The fifth commandment states, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."19
How can we best teach our children? The Lord has given us specific instruction:
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile -
"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy."20
When a child needs correction, you might ask yourself, "What can I say or do that would persuade him or her to choose a better way?" When giving necessary correction, do it quietly, privately, lovingly, and not publicly. If a rebuke is required, show an increase of love promptly so that seeds of resentment may not remain. To be persuasive, your love must be sincere and your teachings based on divine doctrine and correct principles.
Do not try to control your children. Instead, listen to them, help them to learn the gospel, inspire them, and lead them toward eternal life. You are God's agents in the care of children He has entrusted to you. Let His divine influence remain in your hearts as you teach and persuade.
Ancestors Any discussion of family responsibilities to prepare for exaltation would be incomplete if we included only mother, father, and children. What about grandparents and other ancestors? The Lord has revealed that we cannot become perfect without them; neither can they without us be made perfect.21 Sealing ordinances are essential to exaltation. A wife needs to be sealed to her husband; children need to be sealed to their parents; and we all need to be connected with our ancestors.22
What about those who are not able to marry in this life or those who cannot be sealed to their parents in this life? We know that the Lord will judge each of us according to the desires of our hearts, as well as our works,23 and that the blessings of exaltation will be given to all who are worthy.24
We as children of the covenant are highly favored. In our hearts have been planted the promises made to Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord has said:
"Ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God. . . .
"Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel."25
This life is the time to prepare for salvation and exaltation.26 In God's eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter.
As children of the covenant, we have met in this morning's solemn assembly. Attention has been focused upon the sacred titles of prophets and apostles. But the final responsibility to prepare for salvation and exaltation rests upon each person, accountable for individual agency, acting in one's own family, bearing another sacred title of mother, father, daughter, son, grandmother, or grandfather.
In those responsible roles, may we go forward in faith, led by Jesus Christ, whose Church this is, and by His prophet, through whom He speaks, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Notes 1. D&C 42:11; emphasis added.
2. See D&C 26:2; 28:13.
3. Ephesians 2:19-20.
4. Ephesians 4:11-13.
5. 1 Corinthians 12:31; Ether 12:11.
6. See Alma 34:32-33.
7. Revelation 14:6.
8. John 3:3, 7; Mosiah 27:25; Alma 5:49; 7:14; Moses 6:59.
9. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
10. See Psalm 127:3.
11. See Alma 42:8.
12. Moses 1:39.
13. D&C 14:7; see also 3 Nephi 15:9. The Book of Mormon further explains the conditional nature of this great gift. It states that "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; emphasis added).
14. See D&C 131:1-3.
15. See Moses 6:57-58. Also note the teaching of King Benjamin: "Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin. . . . But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another" (Mosiah 4:14-15).
16. Deuteronomy 6:7.
17. D&C 93:40. The Lord also said, "Teach [your] children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (D&C 68:28).
18. So taught Paul to Timothy: "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. . . . From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
19. Exodus 20:12. Remember that parental proverb: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
20. D&C 121:41-43.
21. See D&C 128:15.
22. See D&C 128:18.
23. See D&C 137:9.
24. See D&C 130:20-21; see also Rudger Clawson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1917, 29; Joseph F. Smith, in Deseret News, May 1, 1878, 2; Richard G. Scott, "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, Nov. 1996, 75.
25. D&C 86:9, 11.
26. See Alma 12:24.