Thursday, August 9, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on doing the things that bless and strengthen families

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"On February 11 of [1999], the First Presidency, with the support of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, sent to every member of the Church a letter of counsel concerning our families. Let me read you just two sentences from this letter:
"'We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform' ('Policies, Announcements, and Appointments,' Ensign, June 1999, 80).
"What is our reaction to this prophetic counsel? What has been my response and your response to this First Presidency letter?
"As a parent of teenagers in a busy world, I can confirm that it takes giving these issues our highest priority to see them effectively work in our family.... With the influences of evil that surround our children, can we even imagine sending them out in the morning without kneeling and humbly asking together for the Lord’s protection? Or closing the day without kneeling together and acknowledging our accountability before Him and our thankfulness for His blessings? Brothers and sisters, we need to have family prayer.
"Certainly there are times when getting the family together to read the scriptures does not stack up as a spiritual experience worthy of a journal entry. But we must not be deterred. There are special times when the spirit of a son or daughter is just right and the power of these great scriptures goes down into their heart like fire. As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Prophets and Spiritual Mole Crickets," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I remember that 1999 letter—after it was read in Sacrament meetings throughout the Church, we used it a lot in leadership meetings and other training sessions, in stake conference meetings, etc. It was a wise and prophetic invitation to all of us to do our best in the things that matter most.

So now that almost 20 years have passed, has the message lost its timeliness? Not a bit. It's needed more than ever, as our attempts to hold families together matter are more needed and more challenging than they have ever been.

The good that can be accomplished by simple acts like family prayer and family scripture study is difficult to measure, but there is no question in my mind that those things not only set a foundation for future spiritual sensitivity and patterns of righteousness in children, but they also have immediate blessings, as Elder Andersen suggests, of providing the protection and perspective needed in daily life. "As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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