Years ago on Christmas Eve, President Boyd K. Packer related Sunday afternoon, a relative lost a little boy to quick-pneumonia. The family gathered around his casket for family prayer. Folded across his feet was a small blanket, made by his mother.
"Just as they were to close the casket, my mother stepped forward, put her arm around the grieving mother, and helped her unfold the blanket and tuck it around the little boy. The last his parents saw of their little son, he was asleep, covered with that favorite blanket. It was a very tender moment. That is what grandmothers do."
President Packer related several such tender accounts of the service grandparents offer families and others. Then the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve said: "It is my purpose to speak to you about and to speak to grandparents the grandpas and the grandmas to the other elderly members who have no children but stand in as grandparents.
"The scriptures tell us: 'With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.' " (Job 12:12.)
President Packer related how once in a stake meeting he noticed a large number of older members. He mentioned this to the stake president, who responded they were not active in the Church. "I repeated his words, 'Not active in the Church?' and asked, 'Are they active in the gospel?' " He did not quite understand the difference at first. Like many of us, he concentrated so much on what people do that he overlooked what they are, a priceless resource of experience, wisdom and inspiration."
Speaking of the importance of youth drawing close to elderly members, President Packer referred to the First Presidency letter dated March 19, 2003, in which young women approaching womanhood were instructed to join with mothers and grandmothers in Relief Society.
"Young women: Do not be so very foolish as to miss the association with the older sisters. They will bring more worth into your life than much of the activity you enjoy so much.
"Leaders: Teach the girls to draw close to their mothers and grandmothers and the older women in the Relief Society. They will then have an association similar to what the young men have in the priesthood quorums.
"Bishops: Do you realize that some problems you worry about so much with the youth, and with others, could be solved if they will stay close to their fathers and mothers and to their grandparents, to the older folks?"
President Packer recalled how his family cared for his wife's father in their home before his death. "How grateful we are to have had him close to us. We were repaid a thousand times over by the influence he had on our children. . . .
"Value the old folks for what they are, not just for what they can do.
"Have you ever wondered why the Lord organized the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles so that the senior leadership of the Church will always be older men? This pattern of seniority values wisdom and experience over youth and physical vigor."
Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve offer a combined 1,161 years of life and 430 cumulative years as General Authorities. "Almost anything we talk about, one or more of us has been there, done that including military action!"
Speaking directly to elderly members of the Church, he counseled: "In your golden years there is so much to do and so much to be. Do not withdraw into a retirement from life, into amusement. That, for some, would be useless, even selfish. You may have served a mission and been released and consider yourself to have completed your service in the Church, but you are never released from being active in the gospel. . . .
"You may at last, when old and feeble, learn that the greatest mission of all is to strengthen your own family and the families of others, to seal the generations."
President Packer admonished: "Keep the fire of your testimony of the restored gospel and your witness of our Redeemer burning so brightly that our children can warm their hands by the fire of your faith."