PROVO — In their first speaking assignment since being called to the Primary general presidency, Sister Joy D. Jones, Sister Jean B. Bingham and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon spoke together on the topic “Family Unity” during their address on April 29 as part of the annual BYU Women’s Conference.
Speaking to women in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus, the three shared ways individuals can help strengthen and unify their families.
“As a new presidency, we’ve been told that we look somewhat alike,” said Sister Jones, Primary general president. “However, there are many differences between us, from the subtle to the significant.”
Just as the three women have diverse backgrounds, so does each family in the gospel, she noted.
“Because of our varied life experiences throughout the world, we have different perspectives on many issues,” Sister Jones said. “All of us assembled here have many similarities and yet are unique in the combination of our personality, abilities and perspectives, which contribute to the diversity we display as children of God.”
No matter a person’s family make-up, all can follow the instruction from Heavenly Father when He invited His children to “be one.”
“How do we knit hearts?” asked Sister Cordon, second counselor in the Primary general presidency. “Knitting is taking yarn of various widths, colors, strengths and textures and weaving them into one fabric. 3; How do we knit the hearts of diverse family members together? There are many threads out there to pull from which we can knit into our family fabric.”
Recognizing the many distractions facing families today, Sister Cordon spoke of choosing the “best threads” in creating the fabric that holds a family together.
“If we don’t weave the gospel threads into our daily lives, the fabric will not be strong enough to withstand the buffetings of Satan,” Sister Cordon said. “Satan is a skillful imitator, who spreads counterfeit concepts to confuse and distract us from genuine gospel truths, enticing us to weave threads that weaken the family fabric.”
Pondering, prayer and scripture study are crucial to creating threads that bind with “eternal strength.” It is through letting children talk about what they read in the scriptures that parents will learn what is in the hearts of their children.
“What matters most is family,” Sister Cordon said. “Knitting our hearts together. Each thread as it is knitted with love and understanding will unify our families. Never neglect to select the threads that have eternal strength, fasting, prayer, Sabbath worship, temple attendance and scripture reading. 3; Our family fabric is a refuge from the storm.”
Communication is an important part of unity in families, Sister Bingham taught.
“One of the best ways to foster good communication in the family is through family councils,” Sister Bingham said. “When we participate in a family council, we are imitating a heavenly pattern.”
Just like in pre-mortal existence, family councils have always been needed, Sister Bingham observed.
"Counseling together provides an opportunity to become unified," she said. "Whether our family consists of two parents and children or has a different configuration, family councils can help us become one in purpose as well as accomplish our divine purpose.”
Important to a family council is inviting the Lord to be a part of it. Beginning with a family prayer is simple, and brings the Spirit into the council.
“In any family council, it is important to have time to discuss a topic before decisions are made,” she said. “Children need parents who are willing to listen to them, which validates their perspective and feelings, helping them feel safer and more willing to share. The family council can provide an ideal time during which family members can learn to understand and love one another.”
Recognizing different types of family councils — a general family council with the entire family, an executive council consisting of a mother and father, a limited council with parents and one child, a one-on-one council with one parent and one child, or even an expanded family council with extended family members such as a grandparent — all help in unifying a family.
“These councils can happen anywhere, at any time, even at unexpected or unintentional times,” Sister Bingham said.
Whether it is during a family home evening, during a walk, while on vacation or even on the way to school, family councils are opportunities for families to share concerns and learn to support one another. Councils help in decision-making, scheduling, and to help further the work of the gospel within the family.
"As we participate together in meaningful discussions and associations, we get better at communicating our thoughts of love, interdependence and genuine interest in one another," she said. “These threads of love, when knitted together, create a flexible yet strong fabric that supports us during challenging times, makes joyful times brighter and binds us together for eternity.”
Sharing the experience her family recently had as her 36-year-old son was diagnosed with colon cancer and his pregnant wife had a severe infection, Sister Jones spoke of the power that comes to families as they attend the temple — especially during times of trial.
“We never expected these things to happen in our family, but challenges of different shapes and sizes come to all of our families,” she said. “The question was, did we really believe the things we professed to believe? Did we have the faith to use the primary threads the gospel provides for us? How could we draw on the enabling power of our Savior’s Atonement? Could unity continue to grow in our family even amidst trials?”
Their extended family joined together in prayer and fasting, attending the temple and scripture study.
“Through the past year of our son’s surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments our entire family has recognized the incomparable blessings of the temple and the power of being yoked together with the Lord,” Sister Jones said. “Yes, I give a resounding yes! Primary gospel threads sustained us, and our family has been blessed with a tender and increased unity, a strengthening of our family fabric.”
The temple brings families together — both on the earth and with family members from beyond the veil.
“Now, as you consider the knitting that is occurring in your individual families, ponder, please, how meaningful threads such as scripture study, prayer, family councils, and temple service might knit your hearts more closely together in love, unity, and appreciation for one another," Sister Jones said. "As we seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost for the needs of our own families, I testify that the Spirit will show us what step we can take next in developing the family unity we seek. Heavenly Father knows our circumstances. He knows our challenges. He knows our families. Life is rarely ideal and families are never perfect. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us hope as we humble ourselves, as we trust in our Savior, and as we change.