Lesson Plan: “Come, Follow Me” by Russell M. Nelson and A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells by Henry B. Eyring

The Hatch Family

The Hatch Family by Eastman Johnson. Courtesy of the Met.

Since both Russell M. Nelson and Henry B. Eyring talked about eternal families at the April 2019 General Conference, I would discuss both talks together if I were assigned to teach about one of these talks.

As many of you know, our family experienced a tender separation three months ago when our daughter Wendy departed from this mortal life. In the final days of her battle with cancer, I was blessed with the opportunity to have our farewell daddy-daughter conversation. …It was a tender, tearful moment for us. During her 67 years, we worked together, sang together, and often skied together. But that evening, we talked of things that matter most, such as covenants, ordinances, obedience, faith, family, fidelity, love, and eternal life. We miss our daughter greatly. However, because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we do not worry about her. As we continue to honor our covenants with God, we live in anticipation of our being with her again. Meanwhile, we’re serving the Lord here and she is serving Him there—in paradise. —Russell M. Nelson

  • Do you have an experience sharing the last moments of life with someone you loved? 
  • What felt important at that time? 
  • What gave you comfort?

(In a classroom setting, if people may want to talk about these experiences, do, but if they would prefer silent contemplation, allow privacy and time for silent thought.)

Actually, my wife and I visited Paradise earlier this year—Paradise, California, that is. As it happened, our scheduled visit there came less than 40 hours after our daughter departed from this world. We, along with Elder Kevin W. Pearson and his wife, June, were bolstered by the Saints of the Chico California Stake. We learned of their great faith, their ministering, and the miracles that occurred even amidst their devastating losses from the most destructive wildfire in the history of California. While there, we spoke at length with a young police officer, John, who was one of many brave first responders. He recalled the thick darkness that descended upon Paradise on November 8, 2018, as flames and embers raced through the town, devouring property and possessions like a scourge and leaving nothing but piles of ash and stark brick chimneys. For 15 hours, John drove through an impenetrable darkness that was streaked with javelins of threatening embers as he helped person after person, family after family escape to safety—all at the peril of his own life. Yet during that strenuous ordeal, what terrified John most was his all-consuming question: “Where is my family?” After many long, terrifying hours of anguish, he finally learned of their safe evacuation. …The spirit in each of us naturally yearns for family love to last forever. —Russell M. Nelson

  • Why do our hearts turn to our families in extreme circumstances? 
  • How can we bring our families closer together in more mundane circumstances?

So, what is required for a family to be exalted forever? We qualify for that privilege by making covenants with God, keeping those covenants, and receiving essential ordinances. —Russell M. Nelson

Russell M. Nelson reminds us that eternal families are predicated on righteousness. Some examples of sins that could separate families in the eternities are listed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. —The Family: A Proclamation to the World

This doctrine can be healing for people who have been victims of abuse by family members, to whom the promise of an eternal family relationship with an abuser can feel more like a threat than a blessing.

Most abusers have mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters, yet the secrecy with which we shroud the victim is nothing to the secrecy with which we shroud the perpetrator. When the abuse is incest, that means that a wife and a mother either does not know or chooses not to know what her husband is doing to their child. She may love him and choose to not know what is happening because the knowledge is too painful, because she feels to helpless, because there is too much to lose. Please remember the words of the Savior: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea.” If you know a perpetrator and if you love him or if you love his victim, set the processes in motion so that the perpetrator can receive help and start on his own process of healing. He needs professional help; he also needs ecclesiastical help, and he has committed a crime which he must answer for in the courts of justice. …We can refuse to accept abuse, to make excuses for an abuser, or to turn our heads away from those who have suffered abuse. We can refuse to keep the guilty secrets of abusive men and women in our families, our wards, and our neighborhoods who are damaging and destroying innocence. —Chieko Okazaki

However, to others, who want eternal relationships with family members and fear separation, President Nelson’s teachings about a potentially fragmented eternal family can be deeply disturbing.  President Eyring described himself as one of the people who has felt this way:

My promise to you is one that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once made to me. I had said to him that because of choices some in our extended family had made, I doubted that we could be together in the world to come. He said, as well as I can remember, “You are worrying about the wrong problem. You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine.” —Henry B. Eyring

In President Nelson’s talk, he mentioned that even he, the current president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is unqualified to judge who will earn the blessings of eternal exaltation and eternal families. However, many families are already fragmented during this life. In President Eyring’s talk, he focused on how we can maintain and build family togetherness now, during this life.  

They felt the Holy Ghost, and they felt that they were in a holy place. They surely felt that they were united as one. That miraculous feeling is what we all want in our homes. It is a feeling that comes from being, as Paul described, “spiritually minded.” My purpose today is to teach what I know of how we can qualify for that feeling more often and invite it to last longer in our families. As you know from experience, that is not easy to do. Contention, pride, and sin have to be kept at bay. The pure love of Christ must come into the hearts of those in our family. —Henry B. Eyring

Read and discuss the following suggestions from President Eyring for building family unity. As you read, consider these questions:

  • How are you building closeness in your families? What more could you do?
  • What can we do to lead by example? 
  • Within mixed faith families, how can we build unity and love that transcend differences of belief?

So building faith in Jesus Christ is the beginning of reversing spiritual decline in your family and in your home. That faith is more likely to bring repentance than your preaching against each symptom of spiritual decline. You will best lead by example. Family members and others must see you growing in your own faith in Jesus Christ and in His gospel. —Henry B. Eyring

Even when family members are not living in the home, prayer can build bonds of love. Prayer in the family can reach across the world. More than once I have learned that a family member far away was praying at the same moment for the same thing as I was. For me, the old saying “The family that prays together stays together” could be expanded to “The family that prays together is together, even when they are far apart.” —Henry B. Eyring

Your example of growing in faith may not be followed by all members of your family now. But take heart from the experience of Alma the Younger. In his painful need for repentance and forgiveness, he remembered his father’s faith in Jesus Christ. —Henry B. Eyring

Because none of us is perfect and feelings are easily hurt, families can become sacred sanctuaries only as we repent early and sincerely. Parents can set an example. Harsh words or unkind thoughts can be repented of quickly and sincerely. A simple “I am sorry” can heal wounds and invite both forgiveness and love. —Henry B. Eyring

I believe that he would extend that happy hope to any of us in mortality who have done all we can to qualify ourselves and our family members for eternal life. I know that Heavenly Father’s plan is a plan of happiness. I testify that His plan makes it possible for each of us who has done the best we can to be sealed in a family forever. —Henry B. Eyring

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.