If we have family, friends, and the gospel and the Church, we have everything that is important.
One day when I was 15 years old, my mother and I were returning to our ranch home after school, where Mother taught. As we drove up the dirt lane that led to the house, we saw a large plume of smoke curling up from the roof—the house was on fire! At that same moment my father, who had been working in the field, arrived on the scene. He kicked open the front door. Flames leaped out. There was no way to enter. The fire had already engulfed the house.
We stood silently and watched as the flames devoured the building. In 30 minutes it was over. Only a tiny wisp of smoke rose from the ashes of what had been.
The nearest neighbors took us to their home. With plenty of warm blankets and pillows, a place was made on the floor for us to spend the night.
I lay on the floor unable to sleep. In my mind’s eye I saw the flames consuming the house and everything that was inside of it. Tears slipped from my eyes, and I sobbed aloud.
Nearby lay my parents. Far into the night they had whispered about the loss and how they could possibly recover. My sobs caused Mother to come to me. She knelt beside me, kissed me, dried my tears, and reassured me that everything would be all right.
“But we have lost everything,” I cried. “We have nothing.”
“You do not understand,” she replied. “We still have our family. Not one of us was hurt in the fire. We have our dear friends, and most important, we have the Church and the gospel. Don’t you see? We have everything.”
The following Saturday night the tiny community had a party at the town hall. Everyone came from miles around and brought presents: clothes, food, blankets, furniture, hundreds of dollars. One family offered a small vacant family cabin for the rest of the winter. The love and generosity were like nothing I had seen before, and we survived that winter in spite of the tragedy.
The years passed, and I became a man with a family of my own—a beautiful wife and six wonderful children. We settled in Rexburg, Idaho, and built a house on the east bench, above the city. My parents moved to nearby Sugar City and built a lovely home. Then it happened. The Teton Dam burst, and millions of gallons of water poured out of the reservoir. A wall of water 10 feet high rushed through the valley, sweeping away everything before it. Nearly every home in Sugar City was destroyed. Thankfully, a warning had been sounded in time for almost everyone to get to higher ground.
Sister Hammond and I were attending meetings in Boise, Idaho. When word of the flood came, we drove back to Rexburg, arriving at midnight. No lights were to be seen in the valley. Only the moon shone brightly, its light reflected in the water left standing on the valley floor.
As we drove into our driveway, five different families rushed outside to greet us. Their houses were gone, vanished in the muddy water. My mother had put a few personal items into a small plastic basket as she and my father fled from their home. For the second time in her life, everything of material worth was gone.
We spread blankets all over the house. After kneeling together in humble prayer, everyone found a spot to lie down. There was no sleep that night. In the early morning hours I heard someone weeping. It was my heartbroken mother. I quickly arose from my bed and made my way to where she lay.
I kissed her sweet face and whispered my love for her.
“What are we to do?” she cried. “Everything we had is gone. We have nothing!”
And then I remembered what she had taught me. “Mother,” I whispered, “don’t you remember? We have everything. Our family, our friends, the Church, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have everything!”
We wept together, and tears of sorrow became tears of gratitude.
“Oh, yes,” was her reply, “we still do have everything! Everything that is important.”
None of us can overstate the infinite importance of the family. To contemplate the family is to contemplate eternity, for each of us belongs to an eternal family. We are all brothers and sisters, children of heavenly parents.
Now I challenge you to think of your own family. Perhaps you come from homes that are broken with divorce or homes where there is conflict and strife. Maybe there is a lack of love where wickedness and deceit have left you without hope or joy. If so, then I ask you: What can you do at this point in your life to insure that the future will be one of happiness and joy forever?
I hope each of you desires to find a companion, go to the temple to be sealed together, and then become worthy parents of many children. Children have a propensity to bring you great joy and some sorrow, but they will help to fashion you into celestial beings. Then you will become exalted and have a fulness of glory, “which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).
Neither the man nor the woman can be in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom alone! There will be some who desire all of the blessings of eternal marriage but will not have the opportunity. To them I would say: Do not despair, be faithful, have hope, keep the commandments, and the Lord will give you all the blessings of the priesthood and eternal life.
Once a dear friend and I sat together in my office. We were still young and looking forward to life. As we visited, the conversation turned to our great desires to keep the commandments. We discussed our families and the hope that we could raise them up to be of worth to themselves, to others, and to God. We determined that we would never do anything or say anything that would drag the other down. We committed to always build each other upward. We would lend strength and, if needed, even direction to make us better men. To this day we maintain our bond of eternal friendship.
Our dearest friend is the Savior. He taught us a great deal about friendship when He told His Apostles, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He was willing to submit Himself even to death for His friends.
I think I better understand His friendship when I read the scripture where He said to His Apostles, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). The friendship of the Savior is formed by our obedience to the Father, which is a manifestation of our love for Him.
The Gospel and the Church
I will tie this all together by continuing the story with which I began. I grew up and left Montana and went to Ricks College to play basketball. While there, several people became dear friends. Two young men—Keith and Kent—and I spent a great deal of time together. We were high-spirited and, some might say, a little rowdy. We had great fun in and out of class.
Keith introduced me to his younger sister Bonnie, my future wife. Missions were not promoted then as much as they are now, but, succumbing to the influence of my two friends and the imploring of Bonnie, I accepted a mission call to the Spanish-American Mission.
Upon our return home from missions, each of us married in the temple. We obtained as much education as we possibly could. Eventually, we migrated back to Rexburg. Kent became an attorney, and Keith and I taught religion at Ricks College. Almost at the same time we were called to be bishops. A few years later we became counselors in stake presidencies. All three of us served as mission presidents. Then Keith was called to serve as president of the Portland Temple, and Kent and I were called to be General Authorities. I have spoken of Elder J. Kent Jolley, formerly of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and President Keith L. Sellers. Our whole lives were centered in the gospel and in the Church. We had totally committed ourselves to the Savior.
The gospel and the Church bring everything that is important in our lives into one eternal sphere. There is nothing else in this life of eternal worth—just family, friends, and the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ. We really cannot separate nor divide these three elements—they are all combined into one great concept: our eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ.
I pray that you will have families that are bound to you forever, that you will have eternal friends who will help you improve, and that through the gospel and the Church you will eventually be made perfect in Jesus Christ. Then you will be able to say and to understand that “we have everything.”
Elder F. Melvin Hammond is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ. This article is condensed from a devotional address given Feb. 10, 2004.
The full text of this address is available at more.byu.edu/hammond.