A Lesson Given To The



D. Calvin Andrus
7 February 1999


Good afternoon, brethren. The Stake President has sent me here today to give this lesson. Let me express his love and concern for you and your families.


A couple of years ago, we took the youth in the stake on a handcart trek for youth conference. We spent months preparing. We took them to the George Washington Forest in West Virginia. We had a nice mountainous venue for our trek. We plotted a course along an old dirt mountain road. This road was crossed by several shallow washes, that the ranger told us only had water in them after a rain storms. About 5 miles before the end of the trek there was a shallow creek that washed over the road. We planned to have the kids go through the creek to add some realism to the experience. But, because the last 5 miles was the most treacherous part of the road, had them leave the carts right before the creek. They would just walk across the creek and then finish the trek without the carts.

Brother Kahn and I took boys from our ward up to the trek. Can you tell us, Brother Kahn, what the weather was like that morning? Yes. It was raining. Raining hard. Raining very hard. And guess what happened to those dry washes across the road. They filled up with water. And guess what happened to the shallow creek at the end. It wasn't shallow any more. I was part of the forward scout team that had to assess how we were going to get 150 kids safely across the now deep creek.

We studied the problem. We debated solutions. We finally charted a course across some large rocks, about half of which broke the surface of the water. They were slippery. One of us waded across the creek and we tied a rope between two trees on either side of the creek, that the kids could hold on to as they stepped from one slippery stone to the other. Remember, the girls were wearing those long pioneer dresses.

When the time came for the kids to cross, they approached the edge of the creek. We pointed out the the place on the other side of the creek where they were supposed to end up, and suggested they use the rope to keep them from falling in. Some of the older priests claimed not to need a rope. They got wet.

I want you to do a mind experiment for just a moment, though. Can you imagine the situation if we had not prepared a plan to get across. There would have been 150 kids, fanning up and down the creek, each trying to find a good spot to get across. We were in a highly wooded area, and the trail was not visible from more than about 50 feet away. I have spent enough time with teenagers to have a pretty good idea of what would have happened. There would have been multiple crossing points, some many hundreds of yards away from the trail. Kids would have gotten hurt crossing the creek. Kids would have gotten lost on the other side of the creek as they tried to find the trail again. Parents would have complained that we didn't take care of their babies. It would have been a big mess. One that I, as a Stake Leader, would have had to clean up. Please hold this story in you mind for a minute. I am going to talk about something else, but will come back to it.


As we were preparing to come to this earth, our Father presented to us a plan. A plan to get us across a turbulent and dangerous earth life. We studied this plan. We debated this plan with our brothers and sisters. We finally agreed to the plan. We are now trying to use that plan to navigate the slippery rocks of sin.


Some important features of the "crossing the creek" plan were that it had a vision, or a goal, or a desired end state. The vision is a "what" kind of a thing. It was to get the kids to a point on the trail on the other side of the creek. We could see that spot. We also had a mission. The mission was a "how" kind of thing. Our mission was to get them across SAFELY, in an ORDERLY fashion, and with as few kids getting wet as possible. And from the kids point of view, the plan was communicated from a group of adults the seemed to know what they were doing (a credible source). Finally, the kids understood the plan, agreed to it, and carried it out.

Some important features of the "salvation" plan were that it had a vision, a "what" statement, which stated that desired end state was for us to become exalted and live with our Father in the Celestial Kingdom. It also had a mission, or a "how" statement, which was that we would follow the example of Jesus Christ and apply the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. And from our point of view, this plan was communicated from a credible source, namely, our Father in Heaven. We understood the plan, we agreed to the plan, and we are now trying to carry it out.

Our Father in Heaven has organized us into families here on the earth. The family is designed to help us return to our Father in Heaven. The rhetorical question I have for us fathers and fathers-to-be is: Do our families have a plan? Do our families have a vision statement? Do our families have a mission statement? Has this plan been communicated from a credible source (the parents)? Do all the family members understand the plan? Do they agree to it? Are they carrying it out?

Let me suggest that it is the responsibility of the father in the family to see to it that the answers to these question is yes.


Let me suggest that each of us take a series (up to a dozen over the course of a year, for example) of Family Home Evenings to write a family plan. Remember wewant our kids to understand, agree to, and carry out the plan. Getting them to help write the plan will go a long way to help them adopt the plan as their own.

I am now going to pass out a template for a family plan. This outline is a tool taken from the world of business. One need not use it at all. Families may want to modify it. It is just a tool to help perform our job as dad in the home. 

[discuss handout]

I am now going to pass out a sample of what a family plan might look like using this template. Here again, one need not use this example. Families will probably want to modify this plan. It is just a tool to help us perform our job as dad in the family. 

[discuss handout]


Here are the actual sheets of butcher paper we used in our family home evening to write our family's mission statement and major objectives. The mission statement took one whole family home evening and the major objectives took another whole family home evening.

Mission. Our family will . . .
  1. help each member to become a responsible, self-sufficient, well-adjusted adult;
  2. help each member to return to live with Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom;
  3. have joy and happiness; and
  4. protect and take care of each other.

  1. ADULT
    • graduate high school
    • graduate college
    • be financial responsible
    • understand how to make money
    • get and keep driver's license
    • learn value of work
    • get baptized
    • graduate seminary
    • learn gospel
    • go on mission
    • get endowments
    • be sealed as child to parent
    • be sealed as spouse to spouse
    • (get married)
  3. JOY
    • be a nice person
    • be a peace maker
    • be cooperative
    • live commandments
    • repent of sins
  4. CARE
    • have a clean body and home
    • provide a safe and secure home
    • have a violence-free home
    • have an illicit drug-free home
    • provide safe transportation
    • know personal defense

As you can see my own family's vision and mission statements depart from the suggestions I passed out. This is what happens when you let your family help write the plan. In addition, own family's experience has matured my thinking on this process.

Let me share some specific projects and activities that we've discussed in family home evenings.

Stan in 1997, in line with the objective to graduate from college, had the following measurable activity:
- Take the SAT and ACT exams
Chelsea in 1998, in line with the objective of getting baptized, had the following measurable project:
- Complete the 'baptism' workbook
Our family in 1999, not in line with any objective, has the following measurable activity:
- Hike Old Rag Mountain

You may want to disguise these as New Year's resolutions. But, the family member should see how a particular project or activity relates back to the goals and vision. And, if a project or activity does not relate back to a goal and the mission, then maybe your time would be better spent doing something else. OR, maybe your strategic plan is not robust enough.

I would like to make one last point before I conclude. These plan should change and evolve as your family changes. The vision and mission statements won't change much, but your goals, projects and activites will change yearly, or maybe even monthly. I suggest that you take your family through the whole exercise at least once every five years. New kids are born and older kids move away. The same kids mature. Different people at different stages of life need different strategies to achieve the same vision.


The rope across the creek had a powerful ability to channel the attention and behavior of 150 teenagers to focus on getting to one spot on the trail. None of them wandered off. No one was hurt. They all got to the point on the trail where they needed to be. Our Father's Plan of Salvation has a powerful ability to focus our attention and behavior on the Savior. So too, a family plan can have a powerful ability to keep your family directed toward the Celestial Kingdom. It provides a framework to discover what we need to work on, and how much progress we are making. It also provides the basis for a discussion of how to decide if such and such an activity is within the scope of appropriate family behavior. If your plan is written down, when your kid asks if she can go to a kegger, you can ask her to read the family plan (that she has already agreed to) and find the goal which the kegger advances.

Brethren, our Heavenly Father expects us to teach the plan of salvation to our families because He knows it will help His children return to Him. He will hold us accountable for the charge. He will send us His Spirit to guide us as we work toward this end. To this I bear my testimony. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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