My beloved brethren of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood, this is a special blessing to stand at this pulpit where prophets and apostles of God and righteous and capable men and women have for many decades taught and counseled the members of the Church. Tonight it is my humble desire to be a voice of encouragement to priesthood leaders, particularly to stake and ward councils, to increase their attention to the families in the Church who do not as yet have the blessing of the Melchizedek Priesthood in their homes. These are families where the father has not yet received the priesthood, which is so necessary in blessing and guiding his family. For these families, the fulness of the gospel — particularly the blessings of the temple — awaits not only their own efforts but also the loving efforts of Church members who already understand what the temple ordinances mean to the family.
As children we were raised in a home where it was clearly understood that the priesthood was as essential to life as was the water we drank to satisfy our thirst. My mother had experienced in her own family the joy of her large family coming into full Church activity, and then, as a family, going to the Salt Lake Temple. At the age of 47 years, my Grandfather Shoell had been brought into the priesthood with all of its attendant blessings. Upon the completion of a full-time mission, Mother sought a special priesthood blessing, asking that she might be directed to a worthy priesthood bearer who would not only be her husband but would also be a worthy priesthood father to her children. After that priesthood blessing, all of those righteous desires came into being for her and for us as a family in southern Nevada. From the start, we were a family grounded in the priesthood and ordinances of the restored gospel, especially the sacred temple ordinances. This gave us as children a sense of being whole and complete, not only for our immediate family but also with our mother's and father's extended families.
Early on we learned of the healing power of the priesthood as Father, sometimes alone and at other times assisted by men of the ward, exercised that priesthood in our home. In the 1930s in that small Nevada pioneer town, there were no doctors. The nearest doctors were in Las Vegas or St. George. The first thought in times of accidents and sickness was to receive a blessing invoking that priesthood power. I remember Mother saying from time to time, "We don't have doctors here in Bunkerville, but we have the priesthood to bless us, and that is enough." And mighty were the blessings which calmed and reassured both young and old. We were never powerless when the priesthood was there. I have always been grateful for that early awareness of the power of the priesthood of God in our home.
Our homes today face unprecedented challenges that are tearing at the fabric of the family — that are taking away from the homes a sense of peace and confidence about the future. The evil forces parading immoral conduct, dishonesty, and enslavement through drugs seem to be strengthening. These moral issues and challenges will certainly not go away. We will also find that the temporal challenges with respect to everyday living will intensify. We all have become very aware that employment is no longer as secure as in former years as businesses and nonbusiness institutions all around the world merge and consolidate in order to be more competitive. The family farm is increasingly exposed to worldwide markets and general economic conditions rather than just local or national conditions of earlier years.
In virtually all pursuits, the rapidly changing conditions in the world are bearing down on families. They are causing a sense of uneasiness in parents and children. These conditions, coupled with the steady erosion of moral values, can best be dealt with in the family. This is achieved when the powers of righteousness are marshalled in the home under the worthy priesthood leadership of the father, equally yoked with a good and righteous mother.
Indeed, in the February 11, 1999, letter to all the members throughout the world, the First Presidency called again upon fathers and mothers to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. Further, they counseled that the home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions.
Where the priesthood foundations to cope with these challenges are in place in the family, as in the home of my youth, then we will not fear the eventual outcomes in future years. We may be bruised and worn, but the outcome will be of highest eternal worth. Families, where priesthood is honored and exercised, will be able to endure the present pressures and become eternal families. And in the process, individual members of families will have been perfected and prepared for the rewards of the faithful.
There are in every ward and branch many families without the priesthood. In these families there are husbands and fathers who are simply waiting for a supportive invitation to become prepared to bear the Melchizedek Priesthood. Their wives pray and wait for that outstretched hand. These are men who, through our teaching and nurturing, can be made capable to bear that priesthood. They can be fathers of revelation and guidance to their families. They can be fathers who give blessings to their own children, who baptize them and confirm them. Husband and wife will go to the temple, and they will take their children to the temple to be sealed together for time and all eternity. They will ordain their sons to the priesthood, and they will bless their sons and daughters in sickness and in health. Most of them are already good providers to their families in a temporal sense. They must now learn how to provide for their families in an eternal spiritual sense.
There is a way for each ward through councils to reach out to all these men and women and their families and to open the roads to the temple for them. How else will we or they receive exaltation or cope with the challenges that lie ahead? May I make an appeal to the bishops and branch presidents, to Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, to the ward and branch councils to establish a high priority to reach out to these families in a prayerful, thoughtful way. Christ's Church will rise to its full stature when these families are brought safely under the mantle of the priesthood. Of Him and of His great work, I testify in the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.