Turn the Hearts of the Fathers
The purpose of our Father in Heaven in creating His children is that we might become as He is. To become as He is means that we will have eternal life which is eternal joy. The Lord, Jesus Christ told us that we can become as our Eternal Father when He said:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is per-feet. (Matt. 5:48; see also 3 Ne 12:48)
From this we know that it is possible for us to become as our Heavenly parent because surely the Lord would never give us a commandment which we could not obey. To become as God is means that we will have eternal increase or eternal families, and so our great purpose in life is to prepare ourselves for eternal parenthood. We may do this by obeying Gods commandments regarding family duties and obligations. Among these duties is that of going to the temple and being sealed together as husbands and wives and as parents and children. What a blessing it is to live in an age when we have the gospel to teach us what we must do to have eternal life and when temples and the sealing power is on the earth to join us together as eternal families.
In the last chapter of the Old Testament, the Lord speaking through His prophet, Malachi, states this:
For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Mal. 4:1, 5, 6)
On April 3, 1836 the Lord fulfilled this promise when Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery who related the event in these words: [p. 234]
After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachitestifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come
To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse
Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (D&C 110:13-16)
Reference to this event appears several times in the scriptures, one of which contains the following commandment:
Therefore . . . seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children; . . . lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me. (D&C 98:16, 17)
We have two compelling reasons then for performing our family duties. One is that we will have eternal families and eternal joy, the other is that we will escape the Lords punishment which would otherwise come upon us.
Many Church members have turned their hearts to their fathers and performed much vicarious work for them. But herein we desire to discuss the commandment to fathers to turn their hearts to their children. Surely the commandment to turn our hearts to our children deserves as much attention and effort as does the obligation to our ancestors. In what follows, a possible meaning of this requirement is discussed.
The scriptures teach both by precept and example, that when the Lord brings a people to the promised land of the Americas, gives them the gospel and then they fail to bring up their children in light and truth, they are destroyed. Four different times in as many verses, the Lord promises destruction to those who inhabit His promised land and then fail to serve Him. (Ether 2:8-11)
The scriptures provide three dramatic examples that the Lords decrees of destruction are fulfilled. Only eight adults survived the Noachian flood; two were spared when the Jaredite civilization disappeared, and only one righteous man escaped when the Nephites became extinct. Could these disasters have been avoided had parents turned their [p. 235] hearts to their children and taught them the gospel?
President Ezra Taft Benson, the living prophet of God, has, since assuming this position in late 1985, warned against the sin of pride. He dwelt on this topic in his first general conference address as the prophet in April, 1986, and returned to it again in another conference address delivered in April, 1989. In the latter address he labelled pride as the universal sin, the great vice and the great stumbling block of the Church.
Assuming that pride is now universal as our prophet has stated, we are in terrible danger because unless adults change their ways, their children will grow up to be proud like their parents and our society will disappear as did the Nephites. It appears that there is only one way to prevent this from happening and that is for the fathers to turn their hearts to their children, teach them to retain their humility as they grow to maturity, and become equally as humble as their children in the process. The scriptures are unequivocal in stating that only those who are as humble as a little child can enter the Celestial Kingdom.
In this last dispensation, the Lord has given to parents in Zion a law concerning the teaching of their children, which if not obeyed, will cause them to be moved out of their place. On the other hand, if that law is obeyed, eternal life seems to be assured for both children and their parents.
In what follows an attempt is made to explain some of the scriptures which require parents to turn their hearts to their children.
Turn Your Hearts to Your Children
In these latter days the Lord has exhorted us to:
. . . seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children . . . lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me. (D&C 98:16, 17; see also Malachi 4:5, 6; 3 Ne. 25:5, 6)
Why would the Lord consume all flesh if we fail to follow this instruction? The Lords purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, (Moses 1:39) and this is His greatest gift to man. (D&C 14:7) But eternal life means eternal families, and to have the blessing of an eternal family means we must obey those laws upon [p. 236] which that blessing is predicated. (D&C 130:21, 22; 132:21-25; 88:22)
Therefore when parents cease to perform their family duties and cease to teach their children to do so, the possibility of eternal life ceases and the civilization is destroyed. This is what happened to the antediluvians, the Jaredites and Nephites.
Among the family laws which must be obeyed to gain eternal life are the following:
1. Marry, multiply and replenish the earth. (Gen. 2:24; D&C 131:2-4)
2. Since no unclean thing can enter heaven, the Lords laws forbidding adultery and lustful desires must be obeyed. (Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5:27, 28; D&C 42:22, 23)
3. Fathers must support their families. (D&C 75:28; 83:4; 1 Tim. 5:8)
4. Children must respect and obey parents. (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6 I, 2)
5. Parents must teach their children the gospel. (Moses 6:57-59; D&C 68:25-32)
Parents have been commanded to teach their children to understand the basic doctrines and principles of the gospel when eight years old and if they do not, they have committed a sin which may cause them to be removed out of their place unless they repent. (D&C 68:25-32; 93:3850) To be removed out of ones place may mean a loss of the right of eternal parenthood.
While we may not know the Lords reasons for requiring that children be taught to understand the doctrines of the gospel before eight years of age, we do know that during these early years:
1. Satan cannot tempt them and this is the only time in their lives when the Lord provides this opportunity; when lost, it never returns. (D&C 29:39, 46-47)
2. Little children are so humble and pure that if they die prior to the age of accountability, they are saved in the Celestial Kingdom. (D&C 137:10) Being humble, they are more teachable at this age than any other.
3. Being clean and pure, little children can understand spiritual truths better than their parents. (3 Ne. 26:14-16)
4. If children are brought up properly, they will not depart from the right path. (2 Ne. 4:5, 6; Prov. 22:6; 4 Ne. 1:2-18; D&C 45:58)
5. Little children are so completely subject to the control and direction of their parents, that their minds and souls may be trained and molded as the parents determine. This also is a condition which when lost, never returns. [p. 237]
Almost all parents have a personal problem which must be overcome before they can bring up their children in light and truth as the Lord has commanded, and that problem is pride. (D&C 121:34-46; see also 2 Ne. 28:14; Morm. 8:34-38; Ether 4:13-15; D&C 84:54-59) Our living prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson has declared that today the sin of pride is universal, that it is the great vice, and the stumbling block to the Church. (CR, April, 1989)
The situation we face then is this: While little children are humble and ready to enter the Celestial Kingdom, pride among adults is universal. Therefore unless parents repent of their sin and set a proper example, their children will grow up and become proud like other adults. On the other hand the scriptures are unequivocal in stating that parents must become as humble as little children or they cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Matt. 18:1-6; 3 Ne. 11:37-38) Our question then is this: What must we do as parents to become as humble as our little children while at the same time preventing them from becoming as proud as their parents?
The Scriptures Offer a Plain and Certain Solution to the Problem of Pride
The following scripture states the way by which parents can conquer their own pride while at the same time preventing their little children from falling victim to this universal sin:
And again, behold I say unto you that he (a man) cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity. (Moro. 7:43-44)
This statement indicates that without humility, faith is impossible, and without charity, which is the pure love of Christ, humility is not possible. The solution then is to develop a pure love of Christ within ourselves and our little children. The following verse also from Moroni 7, states one way in which this may be done:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the [p. 238] energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; . . . (Moro. 7:48)
If parents and their little children were to earnestly plead with the Father to fill their souls with a love for His Son, and if they were to pray always as commanded, (3 Ne. 18:15, 18) the promise is made that the request will be granted if made with sufficient faith. (3 Ne. 18:20)
A second method of reaching the tree of life and partaking of its fruit which is the pure love of Christ, is by clinging constantly to the iron rod. (1 Ne. 8, 11, 15) In His great intercessory prayer the Lord said:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent. (John 17:3)
It would be difficult if not impossible to love the Lord without knowing Him. But the way to know Him is to study the scriptures which testify of Him. (John 5:39) We are promised that if we will press forward to the end, feasting upon the words of Christ, we will have eternal life. (2 Ne. 31:20; Alma 32:40-43; 37:43-47) Parents who believe, and who teach their children to believe, that the scriptures contain the answers to all of their questions, (2 Ne. 32:3) should have no difficulty clinging to the iron rod. They will go to the word of God to test every belief and to solve every problem.
A Third Way to Learn to Love the Lord Is by Serving Him
The Lord has stated that:
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
He has also stated that He will separate the sheep from the goats on the basis of the service performed to our fellow men. (Matt. 25:31-46)
The Lord has provided a particular method by which we can serve Him by feeding His sheep and doing so by carrying out a specific stewardship in His Church. This method also keeps us in constant remembrance of our family duties by helping others to do the same. It is through the programs of home and visiting teaching. [p. 239]