In the last several years I have noticed that Church leaders are increasingly speaking with great clarity about the role that the forming of eternal families plays in God’s plan. In 2015 after a General Conference full of talks about the family, I wrote about how the Family was increasingly being integrated into the Plan of Salvation as one of the pillars of eternity.
This is such an important endeavor. So many, even faithful and active members, may wonder why we spend so much time discussing topics related to marriage and families. If the doctrine of the family is not linked to the plan and to the atonement of Jesus Christ, then it will lac vitality and saving power.
I was delighted therefore to come across President Nelson’s October 1996 talk entitled simply enough The Atonement. This talk is full of really interesting insights about the plan of salvation. For instance, President Nelson speaks about the “the blessing of aging” which assures that we eventually are able to return to God a very unusual way of thinking about growing older.
But I am most grateful for some insights that come at the very end of the talk regarding the purpose of the Atonement and the Plan:
The Creation required the Fall. The Fall required the Atonement. The Atonement enabled the purpose of the Creation to be accomplished. Eternal life, made possible by the Atonement, is the supreme purpose of the Creation. To phrase that statement in its negative form, if families were not sealed in holy temples, the whole earth would be utterly wasted.
The purposes of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement all converge on the sacred work done in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The earth was created and the Church was restored to make possible the sealing of wife to husband, children to parents, families to progenitors, worlds without end.
This is the great latter-day work of which we are a part.
I love the profound way that President Nelson links together the plan of salvation, the atonement of Christ, the temple, and the family. The very purpose of creation is to allow us to come to earth and form eternal family bonds so that we can return to God together. The atonement of Christ makes this possible because without the atonement none of these bonds could endure and the whole purpose of creation would be frustrated.
His remarks remind me of Elder Boyd K. Packer’s oft quoted maxim: “The ultimate purpose of every teaching, every activity in the Church is that parents and their children are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, and linked to their generations.”
President Nelson and Elder Packer both have/had a clear vision for how the seemingly disparate doctrines of the Gospel fit together into one harmonious whole.
My takeaway from this talk is to ensure that when I talk about the Family Proclamation or the doctrine of the family that I clearly and expressly link these doctrines to Christ and the plan of God. This can be a difficult task especially when people are hostile to the Family Proclamation and are eager to suggest that the document is just the bigoted thoughts of leaders who are past the prime. But showing how the family fits into God’s plan is a crucial step in proclaiming and defending these truths.
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