(read the Handbook here)
It is not surprising to me that the first chapter in the Church Handbook of Instruction is about the importance of families to the work of God. It has been known (at least since the 90s) that the Church places greatest importance on families.
In Doctrine & Covenants 138:55, we read that “even before [we] were born, [we]… received [our] first lessons in the world of spirits”. The family unit existed before this earth – with God as our Father, and all of the other future inhabitants of this world as sisters and brothers. Even our children were our sisters and brothers in the pre-mortal world. We have all been commanded to serve and love each other, and help each other back to live with Heavenly Father. Before we were born, He even taught us our “first lessons” so that we would be better prepared to help each other in this world.
“The purpose of God’s plan is to lead us to eternal life.” A long time ago I had a small square of green paper in my scriptures on which I listed all the things the were equivalent to eternal life. When I would read something in the scriptures that described eternal life or likened it to something else or described how to obtain eternal life, I would write it down on my little green sheet of paper. I’m not entirely sure where that piece of paper is now, but I remember feeling so blessed to read over and over again all the things that were necessary for obtaining eternal life. That Heavenly Father would make sure it was spelled out clearly for us was a blessing for me. He loves us and wants to make His plan plain and simple for us. I have a testimony that this is why we have the Book of Mormon. The instruction in it is plain and simple.
I love how simple the plan of happiness really is. With the fall of Adam and Eve from the garden, their mortality brought with it two obstacles – death and sin. “Because we cannot overcome either obstacle by ourselves, Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior and Redeemer.” The Saviors atonement made possible the resurrection from the dead – meaning that the obstacle of physical death had been overcome. And His atonement also made it possible for men to repent and overcome sin through the Savior. We cannot be perfect alone, and we cannot return to live with Heavenly Father on our own – but we can be perfect and return to Him through the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. With all my heart and mind I know this to be true.
“As part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, we were born into families. He established families to bring us happiness, to help us learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and to prepare us for eternal life.” (emphasis added) I think that sometimes we miss this part of the purpose for families – the loving atmosphere part. Most of the time I think parents understand their responsibility to teach their children – but I believe most parents misunderstand that to mean that is their responsibility to discipline, lecture, and correct their children. Teaching has an entirely different connotation – one that is more loving, less rebuking; more gentle and understanding, and less criticizing. Maybe it would help to remember that our children are also our brothers and sisters. Our positions could easily be turned around – our children, having been born before us, could be our parents, and we their children. And let us always remember that our children will be parents some day – as the words from a Primary song go, “How will they live when they at last are grown? What will they give to children of their own?”
So if we generally learn what we need to know in our families, what is the purpose of the Church?
“The Church provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. It provides the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to all who are worthy and willing to accept them.”
I don’t want to say “that’s it” because these things are vital to our eternal progression – but at the same time, that’s it! That’s all the Church is for – it provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel – but we as members of the kingdom, as parents, teachers, brothers and sister – we are the hands. We do the work. The Church is just an organization, which, without the members, would be completely ineffective.
And so, it is important for us to learn about the organization of the Church, and more importantly, to learn about our duties as members of the Lord’s kingdom so that we can be effective members of this great work the Father has for us.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
What role do you see for the family in God’s work? How have families and the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ worked in your life to bring you closer to Heavenly Father? Do you think the organization of the Church helps families accomplish the duties and commandments that God has given us?