"The family is ordained of God. It is the most important unit in time and in eternity" (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 1.1.1). For this reason, each of us has a significant role in strengthening families and as President Gordon B. Hinckley taught us, "When you save a girl, you save generations" (January 2004 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting).
As I have served, I have witnessed and pondered the tremendous impact our young women and young men can have in strengthening their homes and families through their righteous living. I have also observed their great contribution in uniting families eternally as they participate in family history and performing baptisms for the dead in our temples.
Turn the hearts of Young women to their families
The standard of "Family" in For the Strength of Youth states: "Share your testimony with your family through words and actions. Your righteous example can make a difference in strengthening your family."
When I was a baby, my father was involved in a serious mine explosion which resulted in many health and financial challenges for my family. With the heavy responsibility of caring for my father, providing a living, and raising two small children, my mother depended on extended family and members of the Church to help her teach us good values. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, priesthood and Young Women leaders encouraged us and many were my examples of righteous living. My brother and I "took the teachings home" and as a family we practiced patterns of righteous living.
The testimony of my older brother and his example of righteousness had eternal consequences for my family. In one of his missionary letters home, he expressed his love and confidence that my parents could prepare and be worthy of the sacred ordinances of the temple. During the next year, our family made some changes to prepare for his return and to be ready to receive these temple blessings. Just two weeks after he returned from his mission, a prayer that I had uttered for many years as a young woman became a reality as we were sealed as a family for eternity.
Over and over, I hear stories of youth who have been examples of righteousness in their homes. For the Strength of Youth states: "If your family does not do these things together, pray and study the scriptures yourself. Your example may encourage your family members to join you."
One of the purposes of Personal Progress is to help young women develop these holy habits and turn their hearts to their families. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:39). Often when I ask young women to describe a challenging value experience, they will cite Divine Nature #3: "Make your home life better. For two weeks make a special effort to strengthen your relationship with a family member by showing love through your actions. Refrain from judging, criticizing, or speaking unkindly, and watch for positive qualities in that family member. Write notes of encouragement, pray for this family member, find ways to be helpful, and verbally express your love. Share your experiences and the divine qualities you've discovered with that family member or with a parent or leader" (Personal Progress, p. 23). I delight in hearing young women testify of the tender feelings of love that come from serving a family member and looking beyond their own needs.
Heed the words of Latter-day prophets
Because of the importance of family and its vital role in the plan of salvation, family is a frequently addressed topic in general conference. For example, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve counseled us that "the moral issues of our day must be addressed in the family" ("Can Ye Feel So Now?," October 2012 general conference). We should point our young women to these timely messages and help them determine what they will do to hearken to these prophetic words.
Young Women leaders, you may wish to take time during Sunday lessons for a general conference review. You could have the young women study Elder Cook's talk or read Elder L. Tom Perry's address and come prepared to discuss the five practices to strengthen the culture of a family: prayer, family home evening, communicating with Church leaders, sharing testimonies and following clear, simple family rules and expectations. Invite the young women to "take it home" and lead a discussion at family home evening about Elder Cook's counsel or how Elder Perry's five practices might strengthen their families.
Participate in family history work
Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Richard G. Scott, both of the Quorum of the Twelve, have both recently extended invitations to the youth to participate in family history work. Elder Bednar reminded the youth of the immense contribution they can make in uniting eternal families. Said he, "It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord — not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation" ("The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn," Ensign, November 2011).
I loved Elder Scott's suggestion that being a part of family history and temple work will be a protection to our youth. He said, "Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you grow older, you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life" ("The Joy of Redeeming the Dead," October 2012 general conference).
Help our young women turn their hearts to their fathers by encouraging them to exemplify in their families the words in For the Strength of Youth. Invite them to take their learning home by pointing them to Personal Progress and to the words of latter-day prophets regarding the family. Provide opportunities for them to participate in family history and temple work. As "the hearts of [our young women] turn," (See Malachi 4:6) they will not only be protected as Elder Scott promised, but also they will be a blessing to their families now and in the future.