You cannot be in the Philippines very long before you notice the cranes that are used to build the high-rise apartments and shopping centers, that almost magically appear on the skyline. Just across the road from where I live in Pasig City there is a new 36-story building that builders were just starting when I arrived two years ago. In those early months, hydraulic diggers hammered away at the earth for hours each day until months later they had a hole in the ground that was deep enough, and on rock that was solid enough, to form the base for a firm foundation. With the hole complete, steel and concrete in enormous quantities were used to form the floor and the rising columns. Men, like ants, went from one level to another as they tied steel rebar, welded girders, plastered outer walls, brought in electricity, and lifted pre-made concrete walls into place. While the inside of the building is far from finished the outside is already strong and sturdy, and gives an assurance of strength which it will need when cyclones come or earthquakes shake the earth.
Watching this building experience from my eighth-floor window has made me think about the effort we must put into building a strong family, one strong enough to withstand “the fiery darts of the adversary” (1 Nephi 15:24). Our family foundation must be built on faith in Jesus Christ. This is the same counsel that Helaman gave his sons, “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Helaman 5:12). An increase of faith in Christ gives added strength to the family. We need the helping hand of the Lord to strengthen the family. So, it is little wonder that the Book of Mormon teaches that “if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them (Ether 12:12). Each of us must live worthy of the miracle of Christ in our lives which manifests itself through the Atonement.
With a foundation set on Christ, like the building across from my house, there must be four corner columns to further strengthen the family. The cliché “a family that prays together stays together” may be trite, but it is true for the Lord promises that as we pray in our families we will be blessed (see 3 Nephi 18:21). Sincere personal and family prayer at the start and close of the day (see Alma 37:37) is the passport to an increase of spiritual power. There is no better place to teach the power of prayer than in the family setting. Bishop Joseph L. Wirthlin of the Presiding Bishopric said, “We must teach our children that prayer is a privilege and not a duty…and should be from the heart and not the lips” (“Prayer,” Conference Report, Apr. 1949. p. 155-161). Each of us must pray for an increase of faith as a shield against the fiery darts of the adversary.
The second column needed to strengthen the family is reinforced by learning of Christ through reading from the scriptures and the words of the prophets. Daily personal and family scripture reading, and pondering on what is read strengthens the family. It is not about how much you read each day but how much study, pondering and prayer accompanies your reading that matters most. Holding fast to the rod of iron, the word of God, (see 1 Nephi 15:23-24) will help your family draw closer to the Savior, increase your desire to live a righteous life, help you to resist temptation; assist in overcoming temptation; and will heal spiritual wounds that may, if left unattended, canker the concrete foundation of the family.
The third rising column of strength for the family is achieved by each family member remaining true to their covenants. Examples of being commanded to be steadfast (see 3 Nephi 6:14), or true to our covenants include the invitation to hold fast to the iron rod, to enter by the strait and narrow gate and the plea to endure to the end. To endure to the end is to keep the commandments after baptism and to remain loyal and true to your covenants (see 2 Nephi 31:15). Family members can help each other be true to their covenants by praying together, attending Church together, participating in wholesome activities together, and attending the temple together.
The fourth column of a strong family is service to one another. A family that serves one another is one that strengthens itself. Compassion for our family members means to feel love for them, and love motivates service and kindness in the home. A strong gospel family is one where parents and children serve one another (see Matthew 20:27). It is a happy family where a child surprises a brother by cleaning his shoes, or a daughter delights her parents by ironing the family clothes for the Sabbath meetings.
Many more columns, such as holding regular Family Home Evenings, could be added to the strong foundations of our families.
Let us each do all we can to strengthen the family by building a firm foundation and building strong columns that will withstand the winds of opposition when they blow. My promise is that as parents and children make a real effort to strengthen the family the Lord will assist in that great and noble cause.