“A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth”

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

Last year, I made a joke at work about beginning an official book club for the linehaul department at our terminal. About a week later, one of my co-workers was texting all of us a list of books to choose from. We ended up choosing journalist and linguist Christine Kenneally’s The Invisible History of the Human Race, which covered the very Mormon subject of genealogy. The book demonstrates the power of family history–both in regards to genetics and culture–in shaping our personal lives.1 Research continues to find that the experiences of individuals can be passed along genetically, including major trauma. Findings like this give new meaning to the common LDS/biblical phrase “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).2 The idea of creating “a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children” is an at-one-ment of generations. It is intergenerational healing and forgiveness:

For we without [our dead] cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times (D&C 128:18).

Through the sealing keys and covenants, we are integrated into a cosmological family, stretching from pre-mortality to the Adamic origins of the human race to worlds without end. Being “made perfect” through this integration is to become whole: to have an eternal sense of belonging and identity.3 Salvation and divinity is found in family.

I was reminded of this during Loren C. Dunn’s talk, in which he states that the “special ties between parents and children…tend to make the family organization a little bit of heaven on earth.” He goes on:

I am impressed by the fact that the plan of redemption and salvation for all mankind was worked out between a father and his son, even God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. I believe that one of the significant parts of the Joseph Smith story was when the angel Moroni told young Joseph to go to his father and relate to him everything that had happened. Even in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord was careful to recognize the relationship of this young boy to his father, and he made sure that nothing would damage it. Yes, the association of a father with his children can and should be a very special one.

Author and historian Dan Vogel has used Joseph Smith’s family dynamics as an interpretive lens to Smith’s prophetic career.4 Whether resolving conflict within his own family or mending the fractured nature of human history,5 Joseph Smith’s project was all about family. Dunn’s reminder that the architects behind the Plan of Salvation were family members is a subtle, but profound insight into what Joseph Smith called “the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism“: friendship. Or, perhaps more appropriate, kinship. “Love,” taught Joseph Smith, “is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

If you can’t tell, I wasn’t all that impressed with this session. However, I thought Franklin D. Richards provided some food for thought when he said, “The story of most men and women who attain a degree of greatness and achievement is generally the story of a person overcoming handicaps. It appears that there are lessons that can only be learned through the overcoming of obstacles.” What hit me the hardest, though, was his point about sacred truths that emerge from suffering: “One of the great truths that came from the so-called prison temple, Liberty Jail, had to do with priesthood and Church government.”

I had to really dig for some good stuff this session. I’m hoping the next one is better.6

Here are some of the other talks from this weeks’ iteration of the General Conference Odyssey. Not all the links were ready when this post was finished, however, so check out the constantly updated index for a complete list. You can also follow along by joining the Facebook Group.

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